Dozens of protesters gathered outside Sen. Herb Kohl's and Sen. Ron Johnson's downtown Milwaukee offices Monday, calling on them to tax the wealthiest Americans and preserve programs for the poor and middle class as the nation nears the so-called fiscal cliff.
"We don't need any cuts to our Medicare and Medicaid," said Edward Jude of Milwaukee, a Vietnam veteran whose 29-year-old daughter relies on state-funded health care for her sickle cell anemia treatments.
"With these here cuts, what am I supposed to do, watch my daughter pass away?"
The protests, organized by Citizen Action, Wisconsin Jobs and others, was one of 100 planned across the state and the country Monday. They come as the nation nears the year-end "fiscal cliff" when higher taxes and cuts to numerous programs are automatically set to kick in.
Organizers are asking Kohl, a Democrat, and Johnson, a Republican, to support a solution that emphasizes jobs; higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans; and the preservation of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, among other measures.
"The elections are over," said the Rev. Willie Brisco of the Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, who led about 100 protesters in a prayer outside Kohl's offices at the Reuss Federal Plaza downtown.
"It's time for our leaders to come together to get these problems solved. It's time to stop the rhetoric," he said.
The protesters wielded white carnations and signs saying "No Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid" and "I am Working America" as they chanted, "No cuts, no compromise!" and "Tax, tax, tax the rich!"
A smaller group marched from the Reuss Plaza to the federal courthouse, where security officers stood guard along the front of the building and two Milwaukee police officers watched from across the street.
Speakers included activists and health care workers who spoke to the hardships of people on the margins and the difficult choices ahead for them.
"If we have these cuts, I'm going to have to choose between taking care of my aunt and my children," said Jamecca Cohee, a home health care worker who earns about $9 an hour caring for two disabled relatives.
"Or I'll have to get rid of my kids so they'll have a better life," she said.
Small groups of protesters were blocked from hand-delivering letters to Kohl's and Johnson's offices, though a Johnson aide met protesters in the lobby of the federal building to accept the letter there.
A spokeswoman for Kohl said it is his policy to allow protesters to come up to his office and attributed the prohibition to miscommunication with the federal protective services.
Mike Wilder of Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the African-American Round Table called the lack of direct access "very concerning."
"When you have taxpayers who want to have access to their elected representatives, they should be allowed to do so," he said.
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