Following Thursday’s arrest of ten disability rights activists who were protesting the GOP health care bill at the office of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), leading Colorado activist groups spoke out in condemnation of Gardner’s refusal to engage with constituents and his party’s plan to strip health insurance from millions of Americans.
The ten activists, most of whom have disabilities themselves, were taken into custody on Thursday morning after staging a sit-in at Gardner’s Denver office that lasted more than 50 hours. The sit-in was part of a nationwide wave of protests organized by the Denver-born organization ADAPT.
The progressive anti-Trump group Indivisible Denver, along with dozens of local grassroots groups, released a joint statement Friday calling the actions of the ADAPT activists “courageous and arduous.” Beyond condemning the arrests, Indivisible Denver blasted Gardner for creating the circumstances in which his constituents felt the need “to resort to such extreme measures to be heard in the first place.”
Gardner has drawn ire for not making himself available to his constituents, including refusing to hold any in-person town hall meetings and delegitimizing those contacting his office and demonstrating by calling them paid protesters.
Indivisible Denver also called the health care bill a matter of life or death. That claim can be substantiated by a recent report in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, which found that if the Senate bill passes, an additional 28,600 Americans will die each year due to medical conditions that could have been prevented if the person had insurance.
Read the full statement, which has been signed by 25 groups and counting, below:
The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) is a bill so horrifying to many of our brothers and sisters with disabilities that disability rights activists here in Denver felt compelled to put their bodies on the line to protest its cruel and devastating effects by staging the sit-in that began on Tuesday. Just this week, the CBO released a new report indicating that under the BCRA, by 2036, Medicaid would be cut by 35%, which would reduce or eliminate access to the medical care and living assistance that allows them to live in the community.
This bill has compelled Senator Gardner’s constituents with disabilities to sacrifice their livelihoods by having taken time off work; to risk physical injury at the hands of security and law enforcement; to face the physical and emotional toll—not to mention stigma—that accompanies these arrests.
The courageous and arduous depths to which these men and women have been willing to go should be signal enough that when we say this bill is a question of life and death, that is not hyperbole. This is life. And death.
Beneath the GOP’s fiction of “personal responsibility” lies the reality that to gut Medicaid is to gut the in-home care for the disabled that enables them to live in the community. Senator Gardner needs to hear us loud and clear: Disability is not a choice.
But will he hear us? The greater crime here is not that ADAPT’s activists were arrested for civil disobedience; it’s that they had to resort to such extreme measures to be heard in the first place. Constituents turn to nonviolent direct action when the normal channels of democratic representation and communication have broken down. Senator Gardner’s refusal to engage with his constituents and his refusal to reject policies that threaten their well-being are sources of lasting shame.