Activists Thank City And Police Following Protests
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 23, 2006
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE--Members of the Tennessee chapter of ADAPT said "a big thanks" Thursday to the people of Nashville for their patience during three days of protests designed to draw attention to the institutional bias in the state's long-term care system.
In a media statement, organizers also expressed gratitude toward Nashville Metro Police, Tennessee Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement officers "who did their jobs so professionally and still with courtesy and even, at times, with humor."
"We know that you're not our enemy!" the statement read.
An estimated 400 ADAPT members from across the country converged over the weekend on the capital of Tennessee, which ranks among the lowest in funding for community-based supports for people with disabilities while boasting one of the highest rates of nursing home occupancy.
The activities began Sunday with "Real People-Real Voices", a forum for people to tell federal agencies and national disability groups directly about their terrifying ordeals in nursing homes and other institutions.
On Monday, dozens of protesters were arrested when they blocked major roads in the city's government district and trapped hundreds of state workers in a legislative building. On Tuesday, dozens more were arrested and taken into custody when they blocked traffic outside the capital after Governor Phil Bredesen refused to meet with a delegation from ADAPT.
Bredesen has been the target of anger and frustration from disability rights and senior advocates because of his massive cuts to health care and to funding that would provide in-home supports for those who do not want to live in nursing homes.
"Currently, 6700 people are trapped in Tennessee nursing homes because the rules say that they can't get the services they need unless they stay there, even though the services could be provided in your home at less cost, saving your tax dollars," the ADAPT statement read. "Any one of you might be number 6701."
On Wednesday, ADAPT protesters delivered a message to the Nashville office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, asking for, among other things, efforts toward affordable housing to be coordinated with efforts to help people move out of nursing homes.
While the groups wanted to draw attention to the fact that the state spends $160 on nursing home costs for every $1 in community supports, much of the media coverage focused on how Nashville residents and state workers were inconvenienced, and how the demonstrators cost the taxpayers in terms of extra police support.
WSMV-TV, for instance, featured at least 10 live and video-taped news stories about the events during their evening newscasts. Only one of those stories went into detail about the reason the demonstrators were engaging in civil disobedience.
Bob Kafka, an ADAPT organizer from Texas, told the Tennessean he worried the public's reaction to the protests might have drowned out their message.
"The point was, for people in nursing homes and institutions, their whole lives are inconvenienced," he said.
Thursday's open letter concluded: "Our cause is your cause! Join us to make a better life for everyone in Tennessee!"
"ADAPT Confronts HUD and TennCare on Final Day of Action" (Tennessee Independent Media Center)
"Group fears message got stuck in traffic" (The Tennessean)
Tom Olin Picture Gallery (ADAPT)
Action Report (ADAPT)