September 2005 was probably my 12th national ADAPT action. More than half of those have been in Washington, DC, and I never get tired of going to DC. I enjoy the city, for sure, but more so I enjoy the breadth of action targets ADAPT has in DC. September 2005 again demonstrated that breadth in ways that would propel ADAPT closer to our goals.
Many times with ADAPT, Sunday is a lightweight action. And while this trip’s Sunday action was not going to push for arrests, it was by no means lightweight. I was a color leader for this action and the orders were clear – be prepared for a loooooooong march. We spread word to ADAPTers the night before and during the morning… wear comfortable shoes, charge your batteries, bring some snacks…
ADAPT rolled. And we rolled. And we rolled. And rolled… well, you get the point. Moving five hundred people with all sorts of disabilities is a long process. Moving five hundred people with all sorts of disabilities FIVE MILES is a really long process. Moving them to the private residence of then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist – PRICELESS!
ADAPT gathered our forces at the gates to Senator Frist’s posh home – chanting and performing street theater. I remember Kathy from Kansas climbing part way up the wall and with a bullhorn leading the ADAPT crowd in chants. Johnny Crescendo, Rick Knight, Bob Kafka and others were covered in red paint in the middle of the street in front of Frist’s house. We wanted to make sure Frist’s neighbors, and the rest of the nation, knew that Frist’s inaction on MiCASSA was killing our people.
ADAPT was up and rolling early on Monday. We were heading to Congress to do “legislative visits”. Well, we did visit some legislators, but not in any traditional kind of way. Half of ADAPT went this-a-way… (to the Senate side of Capital Hill), while the other half went that-a-way (to the House side of Capital Hill). ADAPT split into color groups and took over the offices of the Democrat and Republican leadership of the Senate and House! I was lucky enough to be part of the group that paid a “visit” to Senator Frist’s office! I have to say, it’s not quite as posh as his residential neighborhood…
Within no time at all, the Capital police were in each office, trying to deal with ADAPT while negotiations took place. I remember in Frist’s office we had chants going long and strong. Shelly Perrin and I were hollering incredibly loud. There was a reporter from “Roll Call,” the newspaper for Congress that must have taken about 1000 pictures of me as I crushed the air out of my lungs to yell louder. The next day, Roll Call featured a story about the protest, including a picture of me shouting and a picture of Tim Wheat being carried out, under arrest. 104 ADAPTers were arrested that day. Go ADAPT!
In true ADAPT fashion, with people not getting back from their arrests until 6 AM, ADAPT was up and ready to roll at 10 AM the next day. Today, the mass of ADAPT was staying together, except for the newly formed “Rainbow Group” which boarded vehicles as the rest of us rolled out on the streets. The Rainbow Group was said to be traveling to far-far-away-land on a special mission.
ADAPT swarmed the building, shutting down the main entrance and setting up an audio system. We chanted, belting out our demands for “accessible, affordable, integrated housing”. We demanded a meeting with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson – something no HUD Secretary had ever granted in any of ADAPT’s many visits.
But this time was different – not because Secretary Jackson is that much more open that his predecessors – but because the Rainbow Group had gone to Jackson’s House in the DC suburbs! This time, it’s personal! As the ADAPTers in the Rainbow Group arrived at Jackson’s house they were greeted by a swarm of police. As word spread to our group at HUD HQ, we erupted in cheers… and Jackson agreed to come down and meet with our leadership.