In Washington, Democratic lawmakers joined union leaders and their federal government members calling for an end to a shutdown that will soon become the longest in history.
Hundreds gathered on the sidewalk in front of the American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations building about 11:30 a.m. Bundled in winter coats and hats, the protesters poured into the city street, which police were forced to close. For more than an hour, they listened to speeches and then the crowd marched to the White House.
Talten Halm is a National Park Service gardener who maintains the public parks outside the White House, which have been filling with trash. He shared his story with a roaring crowd.
“I love my job,” Halm said. “I love planting flowers and pulling weeds and making it all look good.”
He said he hates being off work and misses the people who visit the park and count on his landscaping each day.
There were at least four other rallies Thursday. They were held in Detroit, Dallas, Ogden, Utah and there was a second in Washington.
Just hours before the Washington rally Senate Democrats, including Sen. Ben Cardin, tried to call for a vote on two partial funding bills passed earlier by the House.
On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the attempts by his Democratic colleagues as, “pointless, absolutely pointless.” McConnell has kept the Senate from voting on bills to reopen the government without assurance President Donald Trump will sign off.
Their negotiations with Democratic leadership hit another roadblock Wednesday when Trump abruptly walked out of a situation room meeting after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer refused to cave to his demands for money to fund a wall on the southern border.
At the rally, Cardin called for a unified message to Trump, “stop holding America hostage to your politics.”
“There is no reason for government to be shutdown,” Cardin said. “None whatsoever. People are being hurt and it’s got to end.”
The rally Thursday was organized and bolstered by a variety of labor unions representing hundreds of thousands of federal workers who fall under the umbrella of the AFL-CIO.
National Treasury Employees Union member Patricia Reed works as an office administrator for the Treasury Department in Philadelphia and made the trip to Washington with her coworkers to attend the rally. She said she doesn’t know how she’ll make ends meet if the shutdown continues for more than another day. Her savings are running dry.
“We want to work, we need our bills to get paid,” Reed said. “We don’t care about a wall. We want to be paid for our work.”
Halm, the gardener, told ABC News that it’s not for him to decide how to fix the shutdown. He only wants to get back to work.
“There’s peoples lives at risk here man,” he told ABC News. “People are getting bogged down. They’ve got bills to pay. They’ve got kids to feed.”
As for his own financial jeopardy, Halm is determined not to let the shutdown send him into bankruptcy.
“I’ve got to tighten my belt a little bit and by the grace of God, I’ll make through.”