Protesters arrested inside state capitol

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Police arrested two protesters and issued them summons for disturbing the peace after they interrupted budget negotiations in a House committee hearing Tuesday.

The group, the Poor People's Campaign, is protesting a state budget, which they call "immoral." Last week, the same group shut down traffic downtown during another protest and nine members were arrested.

"They're people, real people, real hopes, real dreams, real loves, real fears," Peter Robins-Brown, one of the protesters who was not arrested, said of Louisianans affected by the budget. "I guess I'm tired of hearing legislators talk about everybody like a number."

The protesters say they want a new budget bill to reflect "the needs of the people." But when Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, defended the legislature's actions, protesters flooded the front of the committee room. Simon argued the legislature can have different priorities without being "immoral."

"When you talk about morality and you don't get what you want, it's almost like the other decision is immoral," he said.

One protester was quickly dragged out by capitol security before being taken away in cuffs. Like last week's protest, members indicated they knew they could be arrested before it actually happened.

"I think that it's important to do dramatic things to get some attention," Robins-Brown said. "It's not as easy to just hear our message go in one ear and have it go out the other."

Before the arrest, protesters presented the Appropriations Committee with a box of nearly 12,000 petitions in favor of a budget that prioritizes state services. The governor vetoed the state's regular session budget. Lawmakers heard brief versions of two new budget plans Tuesday night.

The special session must end by June 4. Without skipping significant steps in the legislative process, it takes a minimum of six days for a new bill to reach the governor's desk.

Protesters say they'll be back again next week to protest environmental issues. They would not say how they plan to grab lawmakers' attention.

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