Dozens Of Community Advocates Arrested After Blocking Downtown
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 21, 2006
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE--Tuesday marked the second day in a row that hundreds of disability rights activists shut down busy Nashville traffic to draw attention to the institutional bias in the nation's long-term care system and to Governor Phil Bredesen's cuts to services.
State and city police arrested 60 protesters, most of them in wheelchairs, eight hours after they moved into the busy streets near the Legislative Plaza Monday. The protesters, from ADAPT chapters across the country, sat in the rain and wind and chanted slogans such as "People . . . united . . . will never be defeated!" and "Free our people!"
"There's people that are dying in nursing homes," Memphis resident Angie Shown told WSMV-TV. "I'm here because there's a lot of people who can't be here."
Police were sharply criticized -- mostly by state employees and lawmakers trapped in a legislative office building -- for allowing the activists to block the streets for nearly five hours before making their first arrests.
On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters again took to the streets after a group that tried to meet with Bredesen at his office was turned away. That time, police moved in with accessible vans equipped with wheelchair lifts after about 10 minutes, according to an ADAPT report. Forty-four activists were arrested and taken into custody.
Last summer, ADAPT members from Tennessee staged a 10-week sit-in outside the governor's office after he ordered huge cuts to TennCare, the state's health care program. More than half a million Tennesseans -- many of them with disabilities -- either lost their coverage entirely or had their benefits sharply reduced as a cost-cutting measure. For some, those cuts included supports that would allow them to live as independently as possible in their own homes.
Jose Lara, an ADAPT protester from El Paso, Texas, told the Associated Press: "Tennessee is among the worst in providing long-term care. People with disabilities are being forced to live in institutions and nursing homes."
The activists are asking lawmakers and citizens to support the Tennessee Community Choices Act of 2006, a measure that would allow people in nursing homes and other institutions to take their funding with them into the community.
Bredesen dismissed ADAPT as merely a group of "professional protesters" and called their acts of civil disobedience a "publicity stunt".
ADAPT organizer Bob Kafka said Tuesday he believed the protests were having an impact.
Organizers said they intend to stay in Nashville through Thursday. They refused to say whether more protests would be staged.
"Protesters block off downtown streets" (Nashville City Paper)
"44 health-care protesters arrested in second day at Capitol" (WSMV-TV)
"Protesters demand at-home health aid" (Tennessean)
Protesters Slide Show (Tennessean)
Action Report (ADAPT)