Clayton Cooper, a furloughed federal employee from Laurel who has made it his mission to park in front of the Capitol every work day until the government shutdown ends, said he thought his efforts, on Day 4, were gaining steam.
“We had like 20 people out here this morning,” Cooper said on Friday afternoon.
He said his fellow demonstrators weren’t co-workers or family members – just strangers who had passed his signs earlier and pledged to come back to join him.
“The flame has been lit again,” he said, after a period earlier in the week when he had a group of only about four demonstrators.
He said he had set up a Twitter account, @WTF_Congress, to provide updates about goings-on outside the Capitol.
Cooper’s first few days of demonstrations have ranged from eerily quiet to front-page-news eventful.
On Thursday, Cooper was a block away when police fired shots at the driver of a car who had hit a White House barricade and then led police on a chase towards the Capitol.
“We all just dropped down to the ground and then the place started getting swarmed with police officers,” he said of the scene on the Hill.
He and the rest of his group of demonstrators packed up as quickly as possible and left the area.
“We threw our stuff in the back of the truck and got out as fast as we could,” he said.
Though he initially said he didn’t think he would come back to the Capitol after hearing gunshots, he changed his mind after more details of the incident came out.
He said he plans on coming back with family Saturday for a few hours. Sunday will be his day off – unless, he says, he hears from people who want to come out and demonstrate that day as well.
Cooper, a former member of the military who now works for the government as a civilian in a national security-related job, said his goal was to give a voice to the approximately 800,000 federal workers who are fulroughed.
Armed with signs that say "WTFC?" -- the C stands for Congress -- he and fellow demonstrators have arrived every morning to park in front of the Capitol for about 12 hours a day since the shutdown began Tuesday, Oct. 1. He's been asking passersby to sign his posters, and says he's already filled one entire poster with signatures.
He said he felt a mixture of "disgust and displeasure, and a pit in my stomach" when he learned of the shutdown. Members of Congress, he said, have "been in their ivory tower for so long that they forgot what it is to be down here and how people actually live. People, not everyone, but people are paycheck-to-paycheck. The government is not one of those agencies where you go into it to get rich."