Tennessee Governor Continues To Resist Advocates; Occupation Of
Office Nears Third Week
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 25 - July 1, 2005
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE--At the end of the week, as state staffs were preparing to close down the governor's office for the Independence Day weekend, protesters were preparing for Day 13 of their organized, continuous occupation of the building.
Members of disability, senior and civil rights groups have been holding a peaceful sit-in of Governor Phil Bredesen's office since the morning of June 20. The demonstrators, who at times number in the dozens, are demanding the governor restore funding cuts he has made to TennCare, the state's Medicaid program. Those cuts amount to ending health care for 323,000 low-income citizens, many of which have disabilities, the protesters claim.
Disability rights advocates from ADAPT and the Memphis Center for Independent Living are particularly angered over the proposal which would cause about 100 ventilator users to be moved into nursing homes from their homes in the community.
"We want people to come down here and spend some time in the governor's office," said protester Don DeVaul. "We want people to fill up this hall, to show Bredesen that killing his own citizens will look poor on his political résumé."
Medicaid is a health-care program funded jointly by the federal government and state governments. Bredesen's plan scales back Tennessee's participation, leaving only the federal minimum requirements.
The protesters have also been calling for a public meeting with Bredesen. But the governor's office has only agreed to private meetings.
For some of the time, especially the first weekend, the protesters spent the nights sleeping on the floor, unable to get food, water, blankets or cell phones from supporters. State police escorted those who left to use the restroom. Any who left the area overnight were not allowed back inside.
Crowds of between 30 and 40 advocates have assembled for overnight vigils every night outside the governor's office building, the Memphis Center for Independent Living reported on its website.
On Monday, members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference demonstrated their support of the protesters, while on Tuesday, medical professionals with Healthcare for the Homeless showed their solidarity with the activists.
"The brave people who have occupied the governor's office are fighting for their human rights," said John Lozier of Healthcare for the Homeless. "They're fighting for their very lives. They're fighting for their neighbors, and that includes all of us."
DAY SIX: Sit-in continues over the weekend (MCIL)
DAY SEVEN: Weekend isolated in Governor Bredesens office helps to focus the fight to save TennCare (MCIL)
DAY EIGHT: National Civil Rights Organization Gives Support (MCIL)
DAY NINE: Medical Professionals back demonstrators (MCIL)
DAY TEN: Bredesen refuses transparency (MCIL)
DAY ELEVEN: Bredesens Plan Fails at Most of The Publicized Savings (MCIL)
DAY TWELVE: Holiday Weekend Occupation Pushed Out In The Hall (MCIL)
"As TennCare protest stretches on, governor shares Big Macs" (Tennessean)
"Governor afoul of party over Medicaid" (Washington Times)
"Plan unfair to people with disabilities" (Bristol Herald Courier)
"Loss of TennCare cuts into many people's lives" (Mountain Press)
"Crucial TennCare hearing begins" (Tennessean)