Federal workers protest ongoing shutdown; union leaders arrested

12 people were arrested by Capitol Police outside of McConnell's office in the Russell Senate Office Building

Federal workers and contractors, along with their unions, staged a protest calling for and end to the government shutdown. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Twelve protesters advocating an end to the government shutdown were arrested Wednesday outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. 

The twelve were arrested by Capitol Police in the Russell Senate Office Building just before 2 p.m., following a larger demonstration where furloughed federal workers and their unions raised their voices.

They have been charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding,” according to USCP spokesperson Eva Malecki.


Event organizers said labor leaders planned the act of civil disobedience at McConnell’s Russell office ahead of time, and only labor officials, not government employees, planned to be arrested. Labor activists took the lead on civil disobedience, because being arrested could jeopardize federal workers’ jobs, whenever the government reopens. 

Watch: 12 demonstrators arrested outside McConnell's Russell office


Among the twelve were Randy Erwin, national president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees and Paul Shearon, international president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

“End the shutdown, end the shutdown, end the shutdown,” chanted onlookers as the group was handcuffed with plastic zip ties and led away by Capitol Police.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of federal workers and allies flooded the Hart Senate Office Building’s atrium to call for an end to the shutdown. The group was joined by Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin, Ro Khanna, Ayanna S. Pressley, and Jan Schakowsky.

The protesters were silent for a minute for each day of the shutdown — 33 minutes. They held paper plates with pleas written on them to circumvent the restriction on protest signs. “Federal workers are hungry,” read some, while others said “hostage” “feed the feds,” and “will work for pay.”

When the silence was over, cheers and shouting began, and protesters shook their fists and paper plates.

“No more food banks. We need paychecks,” they chanted.

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