Monday, April 27, 2009

Police arrest members of ADAPT at White House protest over community-based services

From ABC News at 2:09 p.m. April 27. For more pictures of the ADAPT protest, go here. You can also follow the protest on the ADAPT Action Alerts page and Twitter.

Police have started to arrest some of the disabled protesters picketing outside the White House right now. Almost all of the 400 demonstrators are in wheelchairs.

"Shame on you, Obama is a liar! Shame on you, Obama is a liar!" some are chanting.

They're here from all over the country -- Texas, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania -- to protest what they see as President Obama not sufficiently supporting the Community Choice Act, a bill that would amend the Social Security Act to provide those with disabilities and older Americans the ability to use federal funding for
community-based attendant services instead of just for nursing homes.

ADAPT wants the Community Choice Act to be included as part of the overall health care reform package. The White House says that President Obama supports CCA, but whether or not it's part of the overall health reform effort hasn't been decided.*

White House health care czar Nancy-Ann DeParle met with some members of ADAPT this morning, and according to a White House source, DeParle told the
activists the issue has not yet come up in her discussions with Congress. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, introduced the bill last month.**

"The President supports CCA and was in fact a co-sponsor of it when he was in the Senate," says the administration's spokesperson for health reform, Linda Douglass. "He hasn't signed it into law because there is nothing to sign yet. It was introduced at the beginning of the year and has been referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee."

"Take me inside with you right now and I'll call Obama a f------ liar to his face," says Peggy Dougherty, 69, from Easton, Penn, who has handcuffed herself to the White House gate.

Dougherty, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, has an Obama/Biden pin on her purse. She voted for the Democratic ticket, she says. "He made a promise and he broke it," she says.

Many of the protesters here today are members of the disability rights group ADAPT. According to an "action alert" sent by the Center for Disability Rights, ADAPT members were told by that "(d)espite featuring the Community Choice Act (CCA) prominently in the presidential campaign, President Obama's administration,
including Ms. DeParle, has again demonstrated that they are unwilling to take leadership and capitalize on the promise of healthcare reform to pass CCA. ADAPT has been part of prior meetings with the Obama administration which also failed to yield any commitment to call for CCA to be part of healthcare reform."

Continues the action alert: "In response to the Obama administration's refusal to demonstrate leadership, ADAPT activists have chained and handcuffed themselves to the Whitehouse fence. They are refusing to leave until President Obama fulfils his campaign commitment to support passage of the CCA. ADAPT is demanding that President Obama create the change that Americans with Disabilities need: the Community Choice Act!"

"This is about choosing to live in our homes in our communities instead of nursing homes," says Milagros Franco, from the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled.

"I'm a survivor of a nursing home," says Eileen "Spitfire" Sabel. "I could tell you stories that would curl your hair."As senators, both President Obama and Vice President Biden co-sponsored the Community Choice Act. During the campaign, then-Sen. Obama said the "legislation is vitally important to the independence, community integration, and equality of hundreds of thousands of Americans with disabilities," that it will help to empower them "to take full advantage of their talents" and "ensure that everyone can live independently as full citizens in their communities.”

A man in a wheelchair handed me two ADAPT fliers. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," says one. Reads another: "You think prison is bad, trying living in a nursing home."

* This post has been updated with newer information as to what DeParle told the activists from ADAPT.

** UPDATE: Harkin communications director Kate Cyrul emails us to say: "Discussions about what will and will not be in the health reform package are currently underway, and no final decisions have been made. Senator Harkin has made clear that any health care reform package is incomplete if it does not address the right of individuals with disabilities to choose to live in the community and receive supportive care, services they are currently entitled to only in an institutional setting. Senator Obama was a cosponsor of the Community Choice Act in the 110th Congress, and made support for the legislation a key part of his disabilities platform during the campaign."