On Friday evening, the U.S. Attorney prosecuting proceedings against 74 activists from the national disability rights group ADAPT agreed to waive the Tuesday court appearances of 60 people, including the actor Noah Wyle.
Fourteen activists, including 2 Texans, will still need to travel from around the country to report to court on Tuesday for their protest defending Medicaid. While the move was welcomed, ADAPTers were still outraged by the punitive actions of the US Attorney’s office that seemed to be intended to stifle the voice of activists who are making a stand for the rights of people with disabilities and seniors relying on Medicaid.
Bruce Darling of Rochester ADAPT said, “ADAPT has organized civil disobedience for over 25 years, and people’s appearances have always been waived. The fact that the U.S. Attorney’s office has taken such extreme measures by trying to force every one of the 74 ADAPTers to travel back to DC, and then twisting around at the last minute, says a lot about our government’s willingness to punish those making a stand for Medicaid which is a lifeline for millions of people across the country.”
Even though their appearance was waived, most of the activists had already secured travel arrangements to get to DC and will collectively have paid thousands of dollars in non-refundable travel costs. “I am outraged that the U.S. Attorney’s office forced people to spend money that most do not have to show up in DC within one week,” said Rahnee Patrick of Chicago ADAPT. “The personal sacrifice people have made is significant, because many of those charged only have a SSI income of around $700 or less a month.”
Although the consequences that they face from the U.S. Attorney’s office have been serious, the activists see the proposed cuts to Medicaid as a greater threat. Dawn Russell, an ADAPT Organizer from Denver explained, “The cuts to Medicaid proposed under the Ryan Budget will destroy vital services needed by people with disabilities. Virtually one-third of Medicaid’s funding will be cut under that plan while the rich and corporations are given tax breaks.
Everything ADAPT has done has required our members to make sacrifices. This isn’t easy, but we didn’t sign up for easy. With our freedom and lives at stake, we will do what needs to be done.”
Darling credited public pressure from media coverage surrounding the court appearances for the change in the U.S. Attorney’s position. “I hope that this controversy has helped the general public better understand the importance of Medicaid,” he said. “Medicaid funded programs enable millions to live in the community with appropriate health care and in-home supports. Our activists stood up for every person who needs personal attendant services, wheelchairs, dialysis, dental care, all the things that keep people living free and contributing to our society.”
In response to the financial burden on the activists, ADAPT set up the My Medicaid Matters! Legal Defense Fund. ADAPT is still seeking donations that will cover the costs of those still traveling to DC, for those who made travel plans and will not be reimbursed as well for fines and legal fees. Donations can be made to the My Medicaid Matters! Legal Defense Fund online at http://www.adapt.org/donate or at:
MMM Legal Defense Fund
1640A East 2nd St
Austin, Texas 78702
For more information about ADAPT, see www.adapt.org<http://www.adapt.org>.