A group of homeless rights activists chose Election Day to end their seven-week fast after leading 2,000 people on a massive march to the Capitol in which 377 protesters were arrested.
Demanding more affordable housing, homeless activist Mitch Snyder marched along with actress Cher, disc jockey Casey Kasem and Dr. Benjamin Spock from a city-run shelter to the Capitol grounds Monday.After the march, 377 protesters were arrested when they sat down in the middle of Constitution Avenue in a planned show of civil disobedience.
Spock, who became nationally prominent in the 1950s with a series of books on infant health and child-rearing, blasted budget cuts during the Reagan administration that he said have "been cruel to children."
"I must protest with every bit of indignation I have against homelessness and particularly homelessness of children," said Spock, who urged the crowd to vote against Republican presidential nominee George Bush but did not mention Democratic rival Michael Dukakis by name.
"For the sake of children . . . I beg you to deny the presidency to Bush," said Spock, who was later arrested.
Activist Mitch Snyder said he, his longtime companion, Carol Fennelly, and five others would end their 48-day water-only fast Tuesday.
"We're here to call attention to what's been happening and what hasn't been happening for the past eight years," Kasem told the crowd, many of them homeless themselves and some from as far away as California.
Cher, who participated in part of the four-mile walk, told other marchers carrying balloons and signs that read "Homes Not Bombs" and "We Hunger for Housing" that she was there to ask government officials to take the problems of the homeless more seriously.
"We all deserve the same respect regardless of who we are," the Oscar-winning actress said during the peaceful demonstration. "I know it's a novel idea, but I think that the government should have some sort of leadership about making a place for people to eat and sleep comfortably in this country."
Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct. Most were expected to pay the required $25 fine and be released, said Capitol police spokesman Dan Nichols.
Fennelly, who was too weak to participate in Monday's march and remained bedridden, was scheduled to break her fast at her bedside at 9 a.m. The others planned a noon ceremony at a homeless shelter to end their fasts.
"There is a crisis in America," said Snyder, founder of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which runs the city's largest private shelter. "Business cannot go on as usual when millions of people don't have a roof over their heads or look forward to homelessness in the next few years."