1996 – Atlanta – Mark Johnson

Three national ADAPT actions in 7 years in Atlanta. This year’s targets were the American Health Care Association (AHCA), Republicans and Democrats.

Day 1
At a prearranged meeting ADAPT representatives from each state confronted Speaker Newt Gingrich about his lack of leadership on HR 2020, CASA, and ultimately hammered out an agreement to work together.

As these negotiations were taking place several hundred of us marched to the plaza in Centennial Olympic Park to hold a press conference and rally. At the press conference, Michigan ADAPT organizer Marva Ways read a resolution indicting the United States regarding its policy of institutionalizing people with disabilities. Emotions ran high as the crowd, in memory of friends and family who have died in institutions, planted flags in the grassy hillside along the plaza.

Day 2
Now it was time to confront the President. During the process of taking over the Georgia Democratic headquarters, 86 of us got arrested. It was the eve of the General Election, ironically Clinton lost Georgia. Faye Bonner, used her Arkansas connections to get the White House to call Air force One. Special Assistant to the President, Alexis Herman was flown to Atlanta to negotiate. She listened to our concerns and agreed to set up a meeting with the President in the first quarter of 1997, the protest ended about 11:00PM. One by one we were released.

Day 3
It had been a late night, so we started out later than usual. We headed to the Georgia Nursing Home Association. We shut down their offices and ultimately a six-lane highway in front of the building. By 6PM, the police delivered Fred Watson, the Association’s Executive Director, to us. Georgia ADAPT asked for his support for their state version of CASA, but all we got was lip service and head patting. At that point we lined up and marched to the nearest MARTA station. After arriving at our rendezvous point we marched to the AHCA hotel: The Marriott Marquis. The hotel had Red plush this, and gleaming chrome that; Crystal dangling from here, and mirrors sparkling from there.

Best of all: the Marriott Marquis had a thirty-plus-story-high open atrium in the center of the building.

We handcuffed ourselves together and started chanting. The echo worked its way up the atrium to all the interior rooms. Looking down on us, Fred’s fellow AHCA members. After a while some among us grew restless and started to crawl up a set of escalators that had been turned off. The police made the AHCA conventioneers leave the common areas, and began to arrest. City buses were lined up in the circular drive in front of the hotel and busload-by-busload we were hauled off. It was almost six in the morning before the last of the crowd, total, 101, was taken away. About noon the last of us had been processed, released and brought back to our hotel for some much needed sleep.

Party Time
After a long snap, wrap up meeting and a Southern buffet supper, DJ Leonard Roscoe, himself freed from a state hospital in GA, had us rocking and rolling. Intense private conversations, political debates and plenty of laughter punctuated the party as folks from across the country enjoyed our last few hours in the South.

A Little History
A brick has been placed in Olympic Centennial Park, at marker 200, to commemorate this and the previous actions in Atlanta.