Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How to Engage a politician-- Part IX

On Friday September 22, 2006 a band of forty ADAPT members met at Rundell Library, in downtown Rochester. Under the ADAPT ‘invisibility cloak’, we were ‘hidden in plain sight’-- just a group of people with disabilities on a field trip, chatting amicably while watching the Dick Cheney motorcade of regional law enforcement, come to town. Vice President Cheney was coming to Rochester to support Congressman Randy Kuhl at a fundraiser. There were sharpshooters on the roofs of the Convention Center, police on all floors of the parking garage, and four square blocks were cut off to pedestrian and car traffic. A protest action looked impossible. Nevertheless, ADAPTers tightly lined up, and marched across the police line at South Avenue and Broad Street, in to the Vice Presidential Security Zone. RPD met protesters, physically moving wheelchair users and grabbing people by the arm, to pull them back behind the line. Bruce Darling was restrained, face down, on a police car, but that did not stop the ADAPT crew. Norita Darling, Bruce’s mom, saw the incident, but kept on walking. Aware that there were larger issues at stake, she focused upon what needed to get done by ADAPT. Unable to get through the police barricade, the ADAPTers did an about face, and marched off, down the Broad Street Bridge.
We headed for Main Street, wheelchairs leading the way. The group attempted to cross over Main Street, to enter the Convention Center, but was met in the middle of the street by police, effectively stopping traffic. RPD redirected protesters, routing wheelchairs back to the yellow line, in the middle of the street. The ADAPT contingent filled in, urging the group forward, but the police brought in barricade fences. Eventually, the group agreed to go onto the sidewalk, next to other quiet protesters, where we stayed. Several officers were assigned to ‘watch’ us, to make sure we did not attempt to cross the street and enter the Convention Center. (One person literally "took it on the nose" for ADAPT, getting ‘bumped’ in the face with her camera, from a hostile employee of the Rochester Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. In the true spirit of non-violent protest, she did not respond in kind, but she has his picture!)

Q: What does ADAPT do when we are going to be somewhere for awhile?
A: Chant!

Anita ‘O’Brien and Susan Norwood led the group in a variety of chants including:
What do we want? MiCASSA!
When do we want it? Now!
Our homes, not nursing homes!
Free our brothers, free our sisters, free our people now!
Settled into a tight group on the sidewalk, we continued chanting. RPD brought in the mounted patrol, forming a Line of Five in front of the Convention Center. Several Cheney reception attendees and Convention Center staff peered out the windows at the demonstrators. Rochester ADAPT was situated in the front of the crowd. Users of power chairs/scooters were on the frontline, facing the Convention Center. Meanwhile, in the rear of the crowd, members of Rochester ADAPT passed out flyers about the need for Randy Kuhl to sign onto MiCASSA. After about an hour, the anti-war groups in Washington Square Park marched down Main Street, and joined us, in front of the Convention Center. This group was composed of Metro Justice members, college students, gay activists, and anti war activists. Cars driving by honked their horn, in support of our demonstration.
As the protests continued in the non-violent manner, the police became friendlier, asking questions about MiCASSA, tapping their toes in time with our chants, and nodding their heads in support of our cause! At the end of the fundraiser/picture event with Dick Cheney, a special bus was brought in for the Republican fundraiser guests, so they could scurry to safety, fearful that people across the street, behind barricades might ‘get’ them!! While leaving the event, Kuhl staffers and others leaving received a rousing round of “Boo’s!!” from the anti-war protesters.
While the protest was in its last hour, others hit the parking garage with MiCASSA leaflets. The Convention Center was empty, as Vice President Cheney and fundraiser guests were gone. However, a group conversation was in progress in one of the meeting rooms. Being curious, both Mike and Bruce walked in to see Randy Kuhl doing a press conference. Ever ready with a question, Bruce Darling cut off a reporter to ask why Kuhl did not support MiCASSA and would not meet with ADAPT. (Mike Volkmer added that it was much more cost effective than nursing home placements.) Congressman Kuhl replied that this was a staffer oversight and he would be interested in getting more information and MiCASSA sounds like something he would like to support! Bruce got his business card and agreed to follow up.

In reflection, this action was another ADAPT victory! The karma of success in unexpected places continues for Rochester ADAPT!

Question: How do you spell power?
Answer: A-D-A-P-T!

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