In June 2017, Colorado civil rights activists fighting to save expanded Medicaid occupied Sen. Cory Gardner’s office in Denver for a few days before being forcibly removed by police. Today, many of those same activists, along with others from around the country, took over Gardner’s Washington D.C. office and were arrested again.
While their mantra in 2017 was, “Rather go to jail than die without Medicaid,” the group this evening was chanting, “Rather go to jail than die in a nursing home.”
This latest occupation is an attempt to coerce support from Gardner on the Disability Integration Act, a measure that aims to protect disabled and elderly people from unwanted institutionalization.
The protesters are members of ADAPT, a long-time civil rights group who has advocated for equal access and treatment for people with disabilities for years. In the ’70s, protesters from an earlier version of the group, then called Atlantis, surrounded buses in Denver and blocked traffic for miles until RTD agreed to add wheelchair lifts to all of their buses.
ADAPT member Josh Winkler said there were about eight Coloradans as part of the group occupying Gardner’s office today.
In a note published on Facebook, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition quoted ADAPT organizer Anita Cameron as saying, “Disabled Americans are locked up just for existing!”
Dawn Russell, who was an integral organizer of the 2017 occupation and later interrupted Gardner as he spoke at the 2017 Western Conservative Summit, was also removed from the office this evening by police.
In the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition note, she’s quoted as saying: “Senator Gardner is the only member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation who is not a co-sponsor of this legislation.”
In a Facebook Live video broadcast before police began arresting people, she can be heard saying: “We’ve got Ken Buck, Scott Tipton, Mike Coffman. Where is Cory Gardner?”
Their occupation is the latest visit to congressional offices this week. Winkler said they visited Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in their offices yesterday. Nobody was arrested.