It had to be one of the coldest Actions we had ever done in History, since outside of the Department of Public Transportation Demo in the late 80’s. We had arrived in Late March, declaring that there would be: “No More Stolen Lives!”
I remember this Action being significant on a personal level; since it was Erik’s first ADAPT Action after his strokes he had sustained during the March to Washington, the previous September.
On Monday, March 22nd, ADAPT had to be downstairs and ready to move at 6AM Sharp! It was a frigid early morning, with bitter wind chills in the single digits, but we were there in front of the Health and Human Services building, bundled up, and blocking the doors, lying on pieces of foam and sleeping bags making sure that the bureaucrats would find themselves not able to get into work, instead of getting out of the building! It was amusing, looking at the faces of the befuddled workers to find us all out there blocking their way! Just when they thought they had figured us out, we had surprised them.
It had been four years since Bush had signed the New Freedom Initiative, which would mandate the Olmstead Initiative be followed. Of course, instead of Freeing Our People, the President had slashed the Medicaid Budgets to the worst lows of all time and had sat on his promise, making war on Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy his priority.
By 12 Noon, Denis Smith, then Acting Head of the Center for Medicaid Services, for Secretary Tommy Thomson, had agreed to meet with us within 30 days of the action. We ended up meeting with Mark McClellan and it resulted in the “Dear Medicaid Director Letter,” which encouraged states to live up to implementing Olmstead.
We headed right back to the hotel feeling like we had put in two days worth of actions. Thankfully, we got to defrost in the comfort of our hotel. The overall consensus was that we were glad to do it and that we were, of course, much stronger than people gave us credit for! We knew that we had to endure many hardships for our sisters and brothers who didn’t have the luxury of being outside, being free, being able to have the chance to speak for themselves!
The next day, we decided we would hold a People’s meeting in the Dirksen Senate Building, since the Senate had been disappointing us by stonewalling on holding MiCASSA Hearings. Imaging the spirit of Thomas Jefferson being alive within us, we arrived at the Dirksen Building with DVD’s from our March we held in September. On our 144 Mile Trek from Philadelphia to Washington DC, we faced many obstacles along the way, including Motorcycle cops trying to break off our line and then, there was a “bomb scare” reportedly in the building, which caused us a long slow entrance process as they searched each of us very carefully.
One had to wonder if this wasn’t some tactic pulled by the Bush Administration who seems to always play the “terror” card when it comes to limiting the freedoms of the American People.
It seemed to me the “real” terrorists were the Nursing Home Administrators who made money from the suffering of our People!
We were calling on Senator Charles Grassley, who was the head of the Senate Finance Committee to hold the hearings. We chanted, sang songs and held our own hearings on the Stolen Lives of our People being forced to languish and die in Nursing Homes due to the political inaction of our government. It was moving to hear the stories of the People who had been in Nursing Homes and were now free. There were some that we all knew that weren’t that fortunate.
As negotiations broke down with Grassley’s Staff, they began arresting People. “We’d rather go to jail than die in a nursing home.” Erik had decided to get arrested. They had arrested over 150 People.
The Action ended with us visiting Senators and House members to try to get MiCASSA passed.
We knew that when we returned home, we had some real work to do, meeting with State Medicaid Directors and getting them to FREE OUR PEOPLE!