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Demonstrators protest outside office of Americans for Prosperity

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, July 10, 2013, at 8:25 p.m.

Protesting what they called an agenda of prosperity for the very rich and austerity for everyone else, about 30 protesters in Wichita on Wednesday rallied against Americans for Prosperity.

The demonstrators, representing a variety of progressive and union groups, said they were there to stand against the anti-tax, anti-regulation and anti-union activism that have been hallmarks of activism of Americans for Prosperity, a group closely associated with the political and economic views of Koch Industries executives Charles and David Koch.

The protest in front of AFP’s Wichita office Wednesday evening was held simultaneously with a similar rally in Topeka.

It had been planned for several weeks but fell on the day Charles Koch began a $200,000 local ad campaign promoting his beliefs in minimal government intervention in the business realm. In an interview with The Eagle, Koch said he wants to do away with government activities that he sees as barriers to prosperity, including the minimum wage, business subsidies and regulations.

Sulma Arias, executive director of Sunflower Community Action, said her organization has “zero dollars” to counter Koch’s campaign, which she sees as misguided.

While Koch’s talk of economic freedom and prosperity sounds good, the reality is quite different for ordinary workers struggling in an economy that offers few good jobs that can support a family, Arias said.

“It’s easy to talk when you’re sitting behind a big desk and not seeing the type of situations that most Kansans are dealing with,” Arias said. “I’d like to see him or any of his friends try to live on $7.50 an hour.”

Among those addressing the rally was Rep. Carolyn Bridges, D-Wichita, who criticized AFP opposition to Common Core, a public/private effort to establish common education standards across the states. An AFP-backed bill to defund Common Core in Kansas passed the Senate but narrowly failed in the House.

Speaking as an educator with 40 years’ experience, Bridges said Common Core is “absolutely nothing to be concerned about.”

“We’re teaching kids that four plus four is eight,” she said. “How can you argue that?”

The rally was after business hours and AFP officials did not answer the door at their office or their telephone. During the legislative session, AFP officials said that Common Core was a costly and ineffective mandate that takes control away from state educators.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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