Activist hopes shutdown will spark ‘Occupy Congress’ movement
Lawrence Steve Robinson says he hasn’t engaged in any political demonstrations for the last year or so.
For the most part, the longtime Lawrence resident and former activist in the local Occupy movement has lived a quiet life with his wife and their dogs since that movement faded in 2012.
But Robinson said he got fired up again last week when Congress failed to pass a spending bill before the end of the federal fiscal year, leading to a partial shutdown of the federal government.
“This time, it was personal,” Robinson said, noting that his wife, Lori, was immediately furloughed from her job with an agency within the Department of Interior.
Steve Robinson, an activist in the Occupy Lawrence movement in 2011, was among a handful of protesters demonstrating at South Park Wednesday, Oct. 2, against the ongoing federal government shutdown. Robinson says the shutdown should reignite the populist street movement that initially focused on economic and social justice issues.
For several hours, Robinson and fellow activist Dan Dimmitt stood along Massachusetts Street next to South Park, waving signs and chanting “Occupy Congress.”
It was a hastily called event that drew few other participants, but Robinson and Dimmitt gave no indication they plan to give up, unless Congress quickly resolves the stalemate.
Unlike the earlier “Occupy Wall Street” movement — which was notable for its lack of leadership, cohesion or a singular purpose — Robinson said he has a clear and definite purpose.
“Anybody who reads the paper knows what we’re protesting for,” he said. “We want the government funded, with no political gimmicks or strings attached.”
Last week, Robinson and his wife began contacting their old Occupy allies, arranging a gathering at South Park, ostensibly to start planning a new mission. His aim, he said, would be to “occupy” the nearest district offices of U.S. Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder.
Jenkins, whose district includes Lawrence, and Yoder, of Overland Park, are both Republicans who have voted with the GOP House majority in demanding that any extension of federal spending authority be tied to either defunding or delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“That’s the logical thing to do,” he said. “That’s certainly one of the things I would encourage people to do if we start building a group.”
At the very least, Robinson said, he wants Rep. Jenkins to return to the district and explain her voting record on the issues that led up to the shutdown.
“One of the things we could do is request a meeting with her immediately so she can explain herself, because she has some explaining to do,” he said.
On Sept. 29, two days before the shutdown, Jenkins issued a statement saying she supported the GOP position of delaying the implementation of federal health reform.
“The wheels are coming off of Obamacare and I will keep fighting for hardworking, middle class families to get the same delay President Obama already gave big business, big unions, and big insurance,” Jenkins said in the statement.