Excerpt of “Wheelchair” by Will Jackson

June 22, 2017; DCist

According to DCist, after the new Senate Republican health care bill was unveiled this morning, revealing serious cuts to Medicaid, a total of 43 people were arrested outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.

The protestors, many of whom had disabilities, were with the activist group ADAPT, and the action appropriately took the form of a “die in.” The group explained that Medicaid lets them live with relative liberty rather than confined to their homes or a healthcare facility.

Police dragged the protesters from the scene, including those in wheelchairs or using medical devices.

Meanwhile, Trump was heralding what we hope will be a very transient victory at the White House. “Obamacare is dead, and we’re putting a plan out today that is going to be negotiated,” he said. “We’d love to have some Democrats’ support, but they’re obstructionists.” We wonder if he understands what real lifelong obstructions are.

ADAPT’s statement provides some indications:

“The American Health Care Act caps and significantly cuts Medicaid which will greatly reduce access to medical care and home and community based services for elderly and disabled Americans who will either die or be forced into institutions,” said Bruce Darling, an ADAPT organizer taking part in the protest. “Our lives and liberty shouldn’t be stolen to give a tax break to the wealthy. That’s truly un-American.”

“Not only will AHCA take away our freedom,” said Dawn Russell, an ADAPT organizer from Colorado. “That lost freedom will also cost Americans much more money. The nursing facilities that people will be forced into are much more expensive than community-based services that AHCA would cut.”

In 2012, the National Council on Disability (an independent federal agency that makes policy recommendations to the President, Congress and federal agencies) reported that States spent upwards of $300,000 more per person serving disabled people in institutions each year than they would spend providing equivalent services in the community. The protest falls on the 18th anniversary of Olmstead v. LC, the 1999 Supreme Court Ruling which first recognized disabled people’s right to live in the community.

ADAPT organizer Nancy Salandra of Pennsylvania was quick to note the connection between that case and the AHCA. “We fought so hard to have our right live in the community recognized and here we are 18 years later and we are still fighting for our freedom from incarceration.”

The charges against those arrested were for crowding, obstructing, or incommoding: “Many of the demonstrators, as part of their protest activities, removed themselves from their wheelchairs and lay themselves on the floor, obstructing passage through the hallway and into nearby offices. U.S. Capitol Police officers warned the demonstrators to cease their unlawful activities or be faced with arrest.”—Ruth McCambridge