A New Kind of Crowd for Governor
Schwarzenegger is accustomed to drawing adoring fans. But now nurses, firefighters and others opposed to his agenda are dogging him.
WASHINGTON â€" Everywhere Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger goes these days there's a crowd. But they're
not looking for his autograph.
A protester outside a Washington, D.C., hotel where
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke Tuesday.
As he darted across the country in the last five days,
raising campaign money and dropping in at the fitness
exhibition he co-founded, Schwarzenegger was shadowed by
demonstrators protesting his plans for overhauling state
Loud and nervy, the protesters crashed his major events in
three cities, playing cat-and-mouse with him as he tried to
elude them and keep his agenda at center stage.
Demonstrators are infiltrating public appearances.
And even when they're kept outside, they're getting heard.
He has been forced to alter his routine and to acknowledge
the protesters in his stump speeches.
The core group consists of nurses upset about
Schwarzenegger's attempt to scale back hospital staffing
requirements and firefighters worried about pensions.
They're getting support from out-of-state colleagues, who
turned up at Schwarzenegger's East Coast events this week
and heckled him fiercely.
"Screw Arnold!" protesters shouted from the street as the
governor dined with donors Monday at the tony 21 Club in
Schwarzenegger had ducked into the establishment through a
service entrance to escape about 100 demonstrators; New
York Gov. George Pataki had gone in the front door. But
there was no sanctuary for Schwarzenegger inside.
A Santa Clara firefighter had flown in for the appearance
at his own expense, put on a coat and tie and reserved a
table for dinner. He walked up to the reception on another
floor and confronted Schwarzenegger about his plans to cut
costs by converting the state retirement system to a
"He said, 'I'm a friend of the firefighters and I would
never take anything away from them,' " recounted Jeremy
Ray, secretary of Santa Clara Firefighters Local 1171. "I
said, 'No, you're not a friend to us, sir. And what you're
doing is wrong.' "
After discussing the issue with Ray for a couple of
minutes, the governor turned and walked off, Ray said.
Schwarzenegger is unused to such displays. For most of his
career he has been a beloved bodybuilding champion and
movie star identified with the heroic characters he has
played on screen.
But with his attempt to revamp state government, and with
his support for what critics say is a predominantly
pro-business agenda, Schwarzenegger is making enemies.
Nurses marched outside an auditorium in Columbus, Ohio, on
Saturday as Schwarzenegger honored champion bodybuilders at
the annual Arnold Classic competition. When the governor
left Columbus, so did the nurses, following him to New
At times he ignores the demonstrators. On other occasions
he mentions them in his speeches, casting them as "special
interests" fearful of reform.
"All kinds of protests, left and right," Schwarzenegger
said in a speech at a New York Republican dinner Monday.
"They're following me. They think I'm going to say, 'Oh, my
God! There are protests. Maybe I should change my remarks.'
â€¦ I don't care. 2005 is the year of
On one point, Schwarzenegger and his antagonists seem to
agree. Both suggest that the governor's agenda could have
national repercussions, making the outcome in California
that much more important.
Schwarzenegger says that if his plans for spending
restraints, new voting districts, pension changes and
teacher merit pay succeed they could have a domino effect,
spreading to other states.
"As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation," he
said at the New York event.
Jeff Zack, a spokesman for the International Assn. of Fire
Fighters, said firefighters from California and elsewhere
who were dogging Schwarzenegger didn't want to see other
governors mimic his approach.
"If Schwarzenegger gets away with it, others will try,"
Protesters are tracking Schwarzenegger's private
fund-raising calendar as well as his public events.
They were waiting for him when he arrived Tuesday at the
St. Regis Hotel in Washington for a luncheon and "business
roundtable" with donors who had given the maximum
contribution of $22,300 to his reelection fund.
With about 75 people marching outside the front entrance,
Schwarzenegger's police escort drove up to the side of the
The governor got out and walked down a flight of stairs to
an underground entrance.
Demonstrators heckled him en route, crowding around the
stairwell and shouting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho. Schwarzenegger's
got to go."
"A lot of people put a lot of faith and hope and trust in
Schwarzenegger, and they feel he's let them down," said
Leora Sage, a nurse who works at UC Davis.
"Instead of being for the people he's for corporations and
The protesters vow not to quit until Schwarzenegger changes
course. And they say they're gaining recruits as they
Ray said that as he was being led away from the reception,
one of the New York police officers escorting him
introduced himself and offered a word of thanks.
"He said, 'God bless you, brother. We're on the same team,'
" Ray recalled. " 'Thanks for doing what you did.' "
See the article on Los Angeles Times website