Nearly 200 people demonstrated at the governor's mansion Saturday to protest Gov. John G. Rowland's welfare-reform proposal.
The protesters -- mostly women and children -- banged on drums, shouted into bullhorns and pumped fists as they attacked Rowland's reform plan as too severe.
If approved, they said, the proposal would be devastating for the 167,000 people in Connecticut receiving assistance through Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
``Rowland's plan would be catastrophic for many people,'' said Joy Reddick of Hartford, one of the organizers.
Reddick, who volunteers for Warriors for Real Welfare Reform, said she receives $612 a month in aid to support herself and three children and that any cut would put her family in jeopardy.
``Most people are working hard to improve themselves. There just aren't enough jobs,'' Reddick said, carrying balloons painted with anti-Rowland messages.
``The talk about welfare fraud has been blown out of proportion.''
Under Rowland's plan, the general assistance program for single adults would switch from a state reimbursement system to lump-sum block grants for municipalities.
It would give towns and cities less money, but offer more control to the municipalities in deciding how to spend it. Also, people on welfare who hold jobs would be allowed to keep all their welfare benefits up to a certain salary level, while those who did not work would receive less money and lose benefits entirely after 18 months.
Rowland hopes to implement his program -- which must be approved by the General Assembly and by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- in January 1996.
On Saturday, the protesters -- some who came in school buses from Bridgeport and New Haven -- gathered at Elizabeth Park and after a short prayer marched to the mansion about a block away.
A procession of young children carrying signs led the march up Prospect Avenue to the mansion.
At 990 Prospect Ave., a thick knot of protesters stood outside the wrought iron gates as six Hartford police officers kept watch outside and state police observed from inside the estate.
Rowland was not home. He was in Storrs, watching the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, a spokesman said.
The spokesman added that if the protesters have complaints, they should write them down and submit them to the governor.
The Rev. Nora Wyatt of Hartford vowed that the protest was only a start.
``Next time we come back, we will be 30,000 strong with people from all over the state. We won't take these cuts sitting down,'' Wyatt said.