Ah, Chicago! I remember that action well. Chicago is my hometown, and it was the first time in four years that I had been back since moving to Colorado.
On Sunday, a Mother’s Day action was planned, but ADAPT learned that Louis Sullivan, Secretary of Health and Human Services, was in town. We certainly weren’t going to snub the gift that the ADAPT gods had placed before us! Sullivan was in Chicago to give the commencement address to two graduating classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle – which happens to be my alma mater! I was excited to be one of the 30 or so ADAPTers who made it into the UIC Pavilion. We went in undercover, which for us, meant not showing our ADAPT T-shirts. The rest of us were outside leafleting the folks who were going in for the ceremonies.
Once inside, we unfurled our huge banner that read “State Schools/Nursing Homes: Hell No We Won’t Go”. That banner hung across the stage for a while – maybe twenty-minutes or more that I can remember. Of course, the majority of us got kicked out immediately, but a few – Bob Kafka, myself, and a couple of others managed to stay inside. When Sullivan began speaking, we began chanting and disrupting his speech. I remember Bob Kafka and me scooting on our butts down the steps to try to get onto the stage, but we were picked up and booted out.
Later, when it came time for Sullivan to leave, it got tense because we were getting around the barricades that the police had set up. Every time the cops thought they had security set up, there were ADAPTers popping up around and behind their barricades. I thought Spitfire was a goner when she dove under one of those barricades and between an officer’s legs; that cop was SO mad! Eventually, Sullivan had no choice but to dash through a courtyard to his limousine. It had to have been the longest dash of his life!
The next day, we visited the regional office of HHS. Our procession was over two blocks long; it was amazing to see! Once we got there, we were met with the ubiquitous, infamous police barricades. The office part of the building was shut down, but the mall part was open. Since we couldn’t get into the office area of the building, we didn’t allow anyone else to get in either! Finally, about 20 ADAPTers got into the office area of the building and demanded a meeting with the Regional Director of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, it was getting tense outside at the barricades, and we took a couple of street intersections.
At last, the Regional Director met with ADAPT right in the street, and heard from many of us why attendant services is so important, and why we didn’t want to be in nursing homes. After much go-around, she agreed to call Louis Sullivan to set up a meeting, but of course, he refused, as he doesn’t meet with “militants and radicals.” We then took over the entire area for the rest of the day, declaring it a nursing home; no one could come or go without ADAPT’s permission.
Tuesday, we headed over to the American Medical Association’s national headquarters. We marched down State Street, chanting loud and proud. I noticed people in the small apartments along the way leaning off their balconies, chanting with us. ADAPT hit the AMA because they wouldn’t do anything concrete to support ending the institutional bias in long-term care. When we got there, the building was closed (hmmm, I wonder why?), so ADAPT surrounded the building and declared it a nursing home.
As I was helping a new guy to block the intersection, an officer came over to stop us. The young man was spastic, and accidentally kicked the cop, who decided that since I could walk (at that time, I wasn’t using a wheelchair) and talk, that I would be arrested, instead. There were four of us busted: Rona Schnall, Arthur Campbell, Mike Auberger, and me. We were taken to jail, where we spent most of the day.
Wednesday, ADAPT went over to the State of Illinois Building. Illinois folks were facing a crisis in community-based services, which, due to budget issues, were being cut and capped. One of our demands was to meet with Gov. Edgar to urge him to expand, rather than cut services. We held a press conference outside, where local folks told their stories. We then went inside to get to the Governors office, but Security hindered us, so we took over the first floor elevators, escalators, and entrances, effectively shutting down the building. Eventually, about 20 ADAPTers made it up to the Governor’s office, some climbing 16 flights of stairs! Though Gov. Edgar was out of town, he definitely learned about what happened, and felt the power of ADAPT!