Well, there I was riding the lift up and into a Paratransit van as I was being arrested with over 60 of my brothers and sisters for blocking off the street in front of the Tennessee State Capitol. It’s amazing how you can’t get a paratransit van when you need one, but they sure can be ready to haul the bunch of us to jail. Two days, two arrests, but this time, the Nashville Police are actually taking us to the processing center. Jail, is not my concern it’s really no big deal. While riding the lift I remember thinking, here I am going to jail and I’ve never felt so liberated.
So, here is how I ended up on that lift…
…it all started Sunday with the Real People, Real Voices National Forum. Nearly 100 individuals gave testimony of the struggles they faced while locked away in nursing homes and other institutions and the fights they endured to move to the community. Everyone on the planning group knew this would be powerful stuff, but these stories moved everyone. Raw, powerful, honesty can do that to people and it set the tone for the next day.
Winter in the south, it was one of those cold, wet and drizzly days and everyone was down early, fired up and ready to put on extra coats, ponchos and bags on our feet. The energy is amazingly high, like I said raw, powerful testimony really has folks fired up. We march from the hotel to our first stop, War Memorial Plaza. The Plaza is actually on the roof of the Tennessee Legislators offices, which are built into a hill, partly underground, directly in front of the Tennessee Capitol.
With the ADAPT troops lined up we speechify why we’re in Tennessee, because it’s one of the Ten Worst states in providing community services, how the Governor has tried to even reduce services and threatening to put more of us in institutions. After the speeches we do a maneuver that would make a U.S. General proud, using different exits off of the Plaza we split into two different groups. These two groups march through the streets that make the block around the Plaza, leaving groups behind at strategic intersections. Within minutes all traffic to or from the Capitol, Legislative Plaza and even the parking garage to the state building is blocked off. Downtown Nashville is at a standstill.
Legislators keeping coming out, but we want the Governor! We’ve owned the streets since 1pm and at 5:30 arrests begin. On this night they ticket and release us, but it takes hours to clear all the intersections.
Tuesday is another cold wet day, but it’s a beautiful day to exercise power. We march back up to the capitol, only this time we line up on the sidewalks in front of the capitol. The Governor had said in the news we were troublemakers and wouldn’t meet with us. So a group of us, about 60 strong try to make our way up to the capitol only to be confronted by several State Trooper vehicles, and an unknown number of Troopers. After some confrontation a Trooper calls us “professional protesters”, I reply, “I’m not a professional, I’m a pissed off American.”
We go to join the rest of our Brothers and Sisters, the police and troopers are trying to keep us out of the street. Then I notice a curb cut in the middle of the block that the police don’t have blocked. Everyone is tight behind me so I decide to take it. Before the police can do anything the sixty of us have done exactly what they were working so hard to stop, we have filled Charlotte Ave, blocking the street off directly in front of the Capitol. The atmosphere gets tense, the police and troopers are upset, ADAPT owns the street in front of the Capitol, again. About two hours later I was riding the lift, feeling liberated as I was being arrested.
There was still another day left. We’d go to the Medicaid office, the Bureau of TennCare, and the local HUD office. We never met the Governor, but all in all, we forced many in Nashville to face us and hear our issues. The state has made numerous changes for the better since that action and many in the state felt a sense of power they had never experienced. POWER TO THE PEOPLE, ADAPT!