TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Around 100 people gathered in Topeka to protest a group they say is directly hurting the working class. But that group, Americans For Prosperity, says its mission is just the opposite.
People representing more than 30 organizations ranging from student rights groups, the American Federation of Teachers, to labor unions and other democratic groups gathered outside of the Americans For Prosperity office at 24th and Topeka Boulevard.
They were armed with signs that said "Brownback Addicted to Koch," among other slogans, calling to attention one of the right-wing founders of the group, David Koch.
They chanted and spoke about issues from raising the minimum wage to protecting public schools and labor union rights. They criticized the AFP's agenda, that it attacks working families, creates tax breaks for the wealthy, privatizes public schools and eviscerates unions. They targeted AFP's affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, another right-wing organization.
"We're going to continue going to the neighborhoods and talk to our neighbors in our community to build the movement in Kansas that we need so we can build dignity and respect, and what working families need," organizing coordinator of American Federation of Teachers and the organizer of Wednesday's protest.
"We need to move away from corporate control and give the voice back to the people," protester Fallon Lewis said. "We want to wake others up as well to leet them know that we want to take Kansas back."
AFP released a statement late Wednesday afternoon from AFP-Kansas director Jeff Glendering:
"TOPEKA, KAN. – The Kansas chapter of the grassroots group Americans for Prosperity issued the following statement in response to today’s protests at the Topeka and Wichita offices:
“It’s ironic for the American Federation of Teachers and other unions to protest our offices while, in fact, it’s the unions who promote an agenda that will deny the very freedoms of the workers they claim to represent,” said AFP-Kansas state director Jeff Glendening. “AFP stands for workers’ rights and fiscally sustainable public policies, and we appreciate another opportunity to speak out on these issues.
“Americans for Prosperity and its 40,000-plus members in Kansas have been ardent supporters of our state’s right-to-work law so that each worker may have the right to choose whether to join or leave a union free from penalty. We also supported the paycheck protection law passed last spring to ensure no worker is forced to pay for public sector union political activities which they oppose.
“This is in contrast to labor groups who actively oppose such efforts to ensure these freedoms for all Kansas workers.
“Freedom in the workplace is an important component of overall economic freedom and is in line with AFP’s overall mission. Aside from individual economic freedoms being protected, right-to-work measures help create jobs and spur economic growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the past decade right-to-work states like Kansas created forty times more jobs and gained more new union members than forced unionization states.”