Magazine article In These Times

Disabled and Disobedient

Magazine article In These Times

Disabled and Disobedient

Article excerpt

DENVER-At 7 p.m. on June 29, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner's office resembles a middle-school sleepover, blankets and snacks scattered across the floor. Only the jaunty flag dangling from the wall exposes the scene for what it really is. "Our Homes, Not Nursing Homes," it reads. Disability-rights activists with ADAPT are worried the GOP's proposed cuts to Medicaid could force them into institutions by slashing support for home- and community-based services. This is a sit-in.

After nearly 60 hours, a phalanx of police officers appears in the doorway, zip ties in hand. The disability rights activists on the floor begin to chant: "Rather go to jail than die without Medicaid."

Moments later, a slow procession out of the office begins, police awkwardly maneuvering wheelchairs. Cameras crowd around, broadcasting images around the world.

The national media started paying attention to ADAPT in June, when chapters organized protests at offices of GOP senators across the country, from Alaska to Ohio to Florida. But this is not ADAPT's first rodeo. It is more like another day at the office.

When ADAPT activist Carrie Ann Lucas declined to assist Denver officers with the operation of her wheelchair, she was arrested and charged with interference with police. She was quickly released, however, because sheriff's department personnel were worried about handling her ventilator. "I feel a little bit discriminated against," she tells In These Times, "that I didn't get to enjoy the fine accommodations of the sheriff's department with everyone else." For Lucas, this form of protest taps into a long and deep tradition. "We are persistent, and we were going to persist," she says.

Fittingly, ADAPT's work started in Denver, in 1978, when the group, then called Atlantis, blocked city buses to demand accessible transit. Nine years after Atlantis roared onto the scene, another group of loud, rowdy activists arose: the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, aka ACT UP. …

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