Tuesday, April 28, 2009

91 arrested at ADAPT protest for community care at White House

ADAPT's Action Report. Many pictures from the protest are on the ADAPT Action Report page.

Ninety-one ADAPT activists were arrested April 27, many chained and handcuffed to the front White House fence, showing their anger at the Obama Administration’s failure to include long-term services and supports in health care reform.

Ten ADAPT members met with Counselor to the President and Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, earlier in the day and were angered that the Obama Administration was not supporting change.

“They said very clearly that they would rather see people with disabilities in institutions, that they would leave them there, because there were higher priorities for this Administration,” said Bruce Darling from Rochester, “this is a civil rights issue and they need to see this as a civil rights issue. No other group of people get locked up in institutions and nursing homes just because of who they are... We are making it clear to the President that this is not acceptable.”

Darling characterized the Administration health care policy as “betrayal.”

ADAPT demands the Community Choice Act (S683 and HR1670) be included as part of the overall health care reform package. The White House response seems to prioritize restructuring health insurance and missing the very critical component of long-term services and supports. About 85% of Americans acquire their disabilities and if our health care policy stops at the hospital, it means thousands of citizens will
not get the services they need to remain in the community and in the workforce.

“My heart is broken,” said Dawn Russell, ADAPT organizer in Denver, Colorado. “Throughout the Presidential campaign, ADAPT worked hard to educate the Obama campaign. We came to believe in the Obama promise of ‘change,’ and we really believed that President Obama was the person who really would ‘free our people’ from being imprisoned in nursing homes and other institutions. Untold numbers of people have died or been abused waiting for their freedom, and we just got told we aren’t important enough and so we have to keep waiting.”

Bruce Darling and Dawn Russell attended the meeting for ADAPT along with Randy Alexander, Linda Anthony, Rahnee Patrick, Bob Liston, Karl Woolsey, Bobbi Wallach, Frank Lozano and John Gladstone. Also attending this meeting were Jeff Crowley, Director of Office of National AIDS Policy and an advisor on the administration’s development of disability policies; Henry Claypool, Director of the Office of Disability in Health and Human Services (HHS); and Mike Hash, coordinator of the HHS-White House reform efforts.

“Instead of the promised ‘change,’” said Darling, “we are just getting more of the same old thing.”

ADAPT is in Washington DC to get the message across to lawmakers that the CCA is not just Medicaid reform, but it is also completing an unfulfilled promise of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. This year marks ten years since the US Supreme Court declared that inappropriate institutionalization is discrimination; a unique discrimination that applies to people with disabilities. However, in every US state there are still Americans who do not wish to live in an institution, but there are no services and supports to allow them to remain at home, with family or in the workforce.

While the group of ten met with the Administration, 500 activists held vigil outside chanting and holding signs and banners. At 11 a.m. Johnny Crescendo gave the group a respite from their chants as he sang and played guitar using a PA system in the middle of the street. Tourist groups in their uniform T-shirts mixed with the multi-color ADAPT at the popular tourist destination.

ADAPT was told by the Park Police not to protest on the sidewalk or approach the
fence; but once the news of the duplicity of the Obama Administration reached the crowd, the object was clear.

The police surrounded the area with crime scene tape and gave three warnings for people to leave the area. Those handcuffed along the fence cheered at the announcement and chanted: “I’d rather go to jail than to die in a nursing home.”

Ultimately, 91 activists were arrested. They were given a summons at the scene and released.

Across the street in Lafayette Park, ADAPT activists watched the arrests and cheered on their compatriots.

“ADAPT is wonderful,” said Sharon Hold of Plainwell, Mich., who is attending her first ADAPT Action, “because our voices are heard.”