Thirty-six hours before Republican and former Fox News contributor John Kasich was sworn in as Ohio’s governor, people from across the state rallied voicing strong objections to his anti-labor, anti-environment and anti-student agenda. Despite Saturday’s subfreezing temperatures and chilling winds, several hundred demonstrators, organized by the “Defend Ohio Campaign” gathered at the Ohio Statehouse in downtown Columbus, while Kasich spoke inside to supporters
They chanted slogans and carried signs protesting the governor-elect’s call for repeal of the state’s collective bargaining law for public employees, his plans to raise tuition at colleges and universities, his abandonment of the 3-C (Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati) passenger rail project and his proposals to privatize state prisons.
The day was so cold that the bullhorns would not function. Deb Steele from Columbus Jobs with Justice charged Kasich’s policies are “an attack on the middle class, on every Ohio family. We’re not going to sit idly by while our state gets sold to corporate interests.”
Bob Fitrakis, Free Press publisher and former Green Party candidate against Kasich in the 1992 congressional elections, called the incoming governor to task for deciding that “Ohio cannot have trains as good as Bulgaria’s,” for wanting to bring Corrections Corporation of America into the state and for planning to cut Medicaid eligibility. He criticized Kasich as a hypocrite with policies to enrich his friends, while claiming to act on behalf of Jesus Christ, who “he claims speaks to him.”
Bob Park of the American Federation of Government Employees praised the effort by hundreds of union activists who mobilized to beat back a resolution in the Middletown City Council to get rid of public sector union contracts. He warned that such resolutions could be introduced in other towns and labor needs to be poised to defeat them.
Meigs County environmental activist Elisa Young voiced concern that Kasich may continue to allow coal burning power plants to pollute the environment and cause ill health among residents in southern Ohio. Pat O’Connell of Free the Planet, an environmental student group at The Ohio State University, called for a “more kind, caring and respectful world.”
Rev. Eric Brown of the Woodland Christian Church charged that Kasich says he wants to abide by the state constitution but not when it comes to funding public schools. People must let Kasich know “we can see through his hypocrisy,” he said. “We’re not going to stand for him making cuts for folks who are permanently disabled and making cuts in Medicaid for senior citizens, raising tuition on colleges and taking away the right for folks to bargain for decent living wages.” He recommended e-mailing the governor or calling him every day, “on your Blueberry or your Blackberry.”
A similar protest was held Friday outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland where Kasich was feted by local Republicans. College Democrats from around the state planned actions at the official inauguration Monday and a rally by the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, representing state workers, has been called for the following Friday.
Photo courtesy DefendOhioCampaign.com. Rick Nagin contributed to this story.