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Protesters Continue Occupation At Governor's Building
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 8, 2005

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE--Protesters from disability, senior and civil rights groups were still occupying the hallway outside the offices of Governor Phil Bredesen Friday, nearly three weeks after beginning their peaceful sit-in over health care.

The demonstrators have been inside the building since June 20, 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 have also been calling for a public meeting with Bredesen, but his office has only agreed to private meetings.

This week, the National Organization of Women, which was holding a conference in Nashville, showed its support for the demonstrators. People infected with HIV or who have AIDS also lent their support.

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.

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.

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.

The advocates claim that Tennessee is the worst of the 50 states in providing alternatives to nursing homes and other institutions. The state spends $149 on institutions for every one dollar it spends on home and community alternatives. The groups blame the nursing home industry for lobbying to keep money going to those facilities, while blocking efforts to increase funding for community-based supports.

Bredesen has blamed the protesters for causing the state to spend $2,000 each day for additional security in the building. The demonstrators argue that theirs is a peaceful, non-violent demonstration and that organizers have not asked for the added security.

"Being here is both humbling and empowering," said protester Stan Davidson. "This building belongs to the people and I believe we are helping citizens to see that government is the people and they need to be brought back to the center."

An opinion piece in Sunday's Nashville Tennessean wrote: "The protesters are there to remind the governor that these are lives, not numbers that he is so recklessly fooling with."

"The ongoing protest also is representative of what doesn't happen often on Capitol Hill -- people standing for what is morally right."

Related stories from the MCIL website:
DAY THIRTEEN: Bredesen ignores real savings with TennCare
DAY FOURTEEN: Bredesen lacks commitment
DAY FIFTEEN: An Authentic American Demonstration
DAY SIXTEEN: Bredesen Blocks The Office Door
DAY SEVENTEEN: People with HIV and AIDS Join the Protest
DAY EIGHTEEN: Bredesen Attempts To Reduce TennCare Quality And Coverage
DAY NINETEEN: Bredesen’s Drug Cap Violates the ADA
"The Medicaid Wars" (Dissident Voice)
"TennCare protest is a finer form of patriotism" (Tennessean)


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