Monday, March 27, 2006

Civil Disobedience- ADAPT style

I participated in my first political protest last week!

This was the action on Wednesday, March 22nd, as told by Chris alterable, Director of Advocacy:

Hi Y'all. After two days of cold, wet and windburn faces, Wednesday gave us a break. With clear skies and a high of about 50, Wednesday with ADAPT was looking pretty comfortable. Instead of marching to our destination we were loaded onto buses and transported. With 400+ people and nearly half in wheelchairs, moving this group is no small accomplishment.

We got no help from local paratransit - I'm sure you're all surprised. So we were left to our own devices. Several ADAPT chapters had large accessible vehicles and many people had their own vans. Despite one bus that had space for 20 wheelchair's and two more buses for about 10, it still took three runs of ALL of the vehicles to get to where we were going. It was amazing to watch.

We took our group and unloaded in the parking lot of Tenn Care, the state's Medicaid program. Through Tenn Care, Governor Bredesen has cut 300,000 people off Medicaid and has forced people into institutions. Our group lined up and circled around the perimeter of the sidewalk. A group of Tennessee ADAPTers approached the front door to deliver a letter on behalf of the people in institutions who have asked to get out.The media had been following us all morning so they were all over the group that approached the front door. ADAPT then burst into a chant of "6,700 want to get out!". According to the most recent CMS data, 6700 people in nursing homes have said they want out (NY's number is nearly 20,000).

We then rolled our group onward to do a second action. About 1/2 a mile away fromTenn Care is the local office of HUD - housing and urban development. We walked over, and crowded onto the front patio/ sidewalk, chanting "affordable, accessible,integrated housing". The director of the office came down to talk with our group. We used this action as an opportunity to launch a nationwide campaign targeting Alfonso Jackson, the head of HUD. After our time at HUD we made our way back to the hotel, still followed by the media. The great part of the day's media coverage was that the press really started to get it! Chris
Report on Tuesdays activities March 22, 2006, from Chris Hilderbrant:

Hey All. Another long day in the cold started with a drizzle as we lined up at 12:30.

After 75 ish total arrests yesterday; we were determined to take our message right back at the Governor. We marched back to the Capital where we were arrested yesterday.We lined the sidewalks, facing the Capital and held a press conference. Thanks to all of the work yesterday, the press was actually following us most of the way to the capital. We held our rally with some songs and chants targeting the Governor - whose office faces the street we were on. At the conclusion of the press conference, a group of about 40 ADAPTers broke off to take our demand list directly to the Governor, since he had refused to meet with us. The group tried to enter the Capitol, an allegedly public building, but were blocked by police cars parked end to end.

The group then revised its strategy, marched back to where the rest of the group was, and took over one of the same streets we had blocked yesterday. The cops swarmed the scene quickly after having taken a lot of criticism for being 'too genteel' with us yesterday. As soon as Metro Police and the SWAT Team (!) moved in on our people, the media swarmed in as well. Several stations did live broadcasts and frequent live updates as the arrests progressed - it was coverage like I've never seen!The cops quickly arrested and loaded up the able bodies then moved onto the wheelers. The cops had three large paratransit vans on hand - but it wasn't enough! They had to drop off their first load of ADAPTers and send all three vans back for more. We all stayed, cheering on those who were arrested, as they were driven away.

Strangers stopped some of one the walk back to tell us they support us and asked more about the issues. I've talked to other people staying in the hotel and apparently the protests have been covered from coast to coast. It's been a great couple days of action and there's another one to go. More details tomorrow.

This was the view from the ground, sent by Chris Hilderbrant: Tuesday, March 21, 2006 9:5-8pm.

Hey all! It's now late Monday night. After the long bus ride down Saturday and a day of great testimonials, today was the time for action. The expected weather of the day was cold and wet and Mother Nature lived upto it. We started our morning line up late - 11am - in a heavy downpour. People were well bundled, covered in ponchos and powerwheelchair controllers were protected by shower caps! 41 degrees and a heavy rain as we marched to do a short press conference on Legislative Plaza, in front of the Tennessee Capitol. After the press conference, our total national group split into 6 teams and proceeded to carry out the real action of the day.

In the matter of a few minutes we had shut down four intersections and blocked two parking garages! The cops were so unaware that they actually helped my group block half the intersection before they realized what was going on. Throughout the day, Bruce (CDR ED) and I were part of the negotiating team while Shelly Perrin was a leader in her group. The rest of the Rochester group did fantastic work that they can better explain than I.

Ultimately, Governor Bredesen refused any demands regarding ending policies that force our people into institutions. He even refused to even meet and discuss the issue. (Read his letter- it is an interesting how an elected official can spin an event...)

At that point, the police began to negotiate with us about the arrest.This was the craziest arrest negotiation I've ever seen! The cops plan was to arrest our able bodied people separately from those with disabilities. Then the next nonsense they planned was amazing: people with disabilities weren't going straight to jail... First we would be transported to a hospital for a full physical! And if that's not enough, he indicated that at some point in that process they would be separating us from our wheelchairs. Then we could be taken to jail. Nevermind that taking our wheelchairs away from us is illegal. Many of us wanted to be arrested now so that we could get the physical! The joke was that the police fine would probably be less than the copay for a similar doctor visit. So of course ADAPT called the cops bluff and after the first couple arrests, the cops realized how impossible their plans was on themselves. They immediately started issuing citations and releasing us on the sidewalk. Our groups then made their way back to the hotel and after over 9 hours in the nasty elements we were back to the hotel.

The action got huge local coverage and has certainly increased the public awareness of how bad Tennessee's long term care system is and should create a great deal more pressure on the Governor to do something! More action tomorrow! G'night. Chris


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