Washington, DC — Mulitple disturbing images and videos have emerged from a peaceful protest over health care in the US Capitol on Thursday, showing police forcefully removing disabled protesters, including many in wheelchairs.
The protest took place outside the office of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who proposed the health care bill. According to Capitol police, they arrested 43 people for their roles in the protests.
The protest was organized by ADAPT, a disability rights organization, whose protest targeted the bill’s cuts to Medicaid for low-income Americans.
“No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberties,” the protesters chanted, as reported by TIME. One protester who was in a wheelchair held a sign reading “life and liberty 4 disabled Americans.”
“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,” said Bruce Darling, an ADAPT organizer taking part in the protest. “Our lives and liberty shouldn’t be stolen to give a tax break to the wealthy. That’s truly un-American.”
During the protest, several videos show disabled people being dragged from their wheelchairs and arrested by police. The disturbing images paint a horrific image of what’s become of the First Amendment in the United States.
The freedom of speech is not reserved for some quiet protest in a cordoned off safe zone far away from politicians. It was, in fact, designed so that people could fill the halls of federal buildings and voice their grievances directly toward those who ostensibly represent them. Sadly, however, that notion is now dead in this country.
A police spokeswoman said in a press release Thursday night, that “many of the demonstrators, as part of their protest activities, removed themselves from their wheelchairs and lay themselves on the floor.”
While that was true, there were several instances of protesters being pulled from their wheelchairs.
Also in a statement on Thursday, the ACLU released their stance, noting, “We can’t believe this needs to be said, but it’s not okay to drag people out of wheelchairs when they’re protesting legislation.”
The Capitol Police are not like regular cops, as their purpose is not to protect the citizens. They are there for the protection of lawmakers only. They are similar to the Secret Service except they can and will arrest people en masse for peaceful protests.
Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki released a statement Thursday in regards to the arrests:
Today, at approximately at 11:30 a.m., disability rights activists staged a planned “die-in” in the Russell Senate Office Building. Many of the demonstrators, as part of their protest activities, removed themselves from their wheelchairs and lay themselves on the floor, obstructing passage through the hallway and into nearby offices.
U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers warned the demonstrators to cease their unlawful activities or be faced with arrest. Forty-three people (15 males and 28 females) did not cease their demonstration activities and were arrested.
The arrestees were charged with D.C. Code §22-1307, Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding. They were transported to USCP Headquarters for processing.
Let’s hope that these disabled protesters fared better than the journalists and protesters arrested during the Trump inauguration. According to a recent lawsuit filed on behalf of multiple victims, police allegedly used ‘rape as punishment’ during the mass arrests.
As Think Progress reports, once the protesters and journalists were arrested on inauguration day, a living hell ensued:
An officer ordered Horse, fellow plaintiff Milo Gonzalez, and three others to take their pants off before grabbing their testicles and then inserting a finger into their anuses while “other officers laughed,” the complaint alleges. Horse is a photojournalist, one of six reporters initially arrested and charged whose cases have been dismissed.
“I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment. They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” Horse said. “It felt like they were trying to break me and the others — break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.”
Let’s hope, for the sake of the people of ADAPT, that these same tactics weren’t used to punish them.