Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren took direct aim at President Donald Trump and the Republican Party in a pair of public appearances on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The Massachusetts Senator blasted Trump's proposed $5.7 billion dollar border barrier as "a monument to hate and division" and charged her Republican congressional colleagues with bringing an immediate end to the month-long, partial government shutdown.
"Enough is enough. It is time for Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress to open our government again," she said to applause at Boston's annual MLK Memorial Breakfast. The event featured a "who's who" of state and local politicians and drew an audience of hundreds. The event was also the first predominantly non-white audience the senator has addressed since announcing her interest in running last year. The breakfast, promoted by organizers as one of the longest-running of its kind, occurred the same day that California Sen. Kamala Harris declared her intention to seek the presidency. Asked by reporters whether Harris' presence in the race would siphon support from her bid, Warren responded that she was "delighted" that the Democratic party was full of energy and ideas.
Her calls for criminal justice reform and a constitutional voting rights amendment received loud applause from the crowd — the opposite of how voters in New Hampshire reacted earlier this month when she broached the same topics during a campaign stop in Manchester. In her 11-minute remarks, Warren also tied her populist platform to civil rights era themes of equality and economic justice.
"Racial hatred was a critical part of keeping the powerful on top," said Warren. "“Dr. King understood what was behind the old ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, turning working people against other working people,” she said, referencing the civil rights icon’s speech after leading the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
"Instead of higher wages for workers, Dr. King described how poor whites in the South were fed Jim Crow, which told a poor white worker that 'No matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man,'" she quoted.
"The path to economic security is steep and rocky for millions of working people in America, and it is steeper and rockier for black and brown Americans," she said. "When we ignore that fact, then we don't move this nation toward greater equality."
Later in the day, Warren took a similar message to a rally at Boston's Logan Airport where a group of subcontracted airport workers alleged wage theft and being stymied in their efforts to organize a union by Flight Services and Systems, an airport staffing service.
"We need a strong labor movement now more than ever," she said standing alongside more than two dozen workers and state officials. "Let's send a message to Donald Trump: Open our government, pay people for their work, respect our workers."
Sen. Ed Markey joined Warren in supporting the workers and calling to end the shutdown with a vote on the Senate floor. Speaking to reporters after the event, Markey said the president's proposal to restore temporary protected status to some undocumented immigrants in exchange for money to fund his campaign promise wall is a "preposterous" non-starter.
"Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell created this crisis," he said, invoking the Senate majority leader from Kentucky. "They can both end it in 24 hours. Just put the bill out on the floor. It will pass nearly unanimously, and all of these workers will be put back to work and then we can begin negotiations on border security."
"We need to start by opening the government," Warren added. "If we want to engage then in negotiations over comprehensive immigration reform, count me in. I'm for that, I've supported it in the past," she continued. "But we start by opening the government now. People should not be working and not getting paid."