Dozens of people protested the newly proposed Republican health-care legislation outside the Capitol Hill office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday — a demonstration that resulted in the arrest of 43 disability advocates.
U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said officers warned the demonstrators to “cease their unlawful activities” or risk being arrested. Those who did not comply were arrested and charged with crowding and obstructing.
The protest, organized by the disability advocacy organization ADAPT, was intended to pressure McConnell and other Republicans not to cut Medicaid funding.
The protesters staged a “die-in” in front of the office, with many of the protesters in wheelchairs removing themselves from the chairs then lying on the floor.
“The American Health Care Act caps and significantly cuts Medicaid which will greatly reduce access to medical care and home and community based services for elderly and disabled Americans who will either die or be forced into institutions,” Bruce Darling, an ADAPT organizer, wrote in a statement before the protests. “Our lives and liberty shouldn’t be stolen to give a tax break to the wealthy. That’s truly un-American.”
Laura Halvorson, 33, also a protester, said many of those who participated in the die-in resisted arrest and were then removed by Capitol Police without their wheelchairs — images that attracted significant attention on social media. She said they were later reunited with their wheelchairs.
Halvorson, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, says she did not resist the officers because she uses a breathing machine and did not want to risk her health.
“I’m proud to be one of the people here protesting,” she said. “Most people are opposed to this bill, yet it is still moving along.”