23 More ADAPT Protesters Arrested in Russell

Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:40pm

Capitol Police late Tuesday arrested 23 more protesters from the disability advocacy group ADAPT, bringing the total number of ADAPT members arrested during a raucous day of protests to more than 40.

The additional arrests occurred shortly after 8:30 p.m. after the protesters, many in wheelchairs, refused to vacate GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) Congressional suite in the Russell Senate Office Building. The group had staged a sit-in in the lobby of the office to demand a meeting with the Senator, despite the fact that McCain was in Florida campaigning at the time.

They were arrested after they refused to leave the office when Russell closed for the night, according to a Capitol Police spokeswoman. They were taken to Capitol Police headquarters, charged with unlawful entry and eventually released, some as late as 3 a.m., according to one ADAPT official.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, at least 20 ADAPT protesters were arrested after they blocked off hallway access near McCain’s office, which is located on the second floor of Russell.

Staffers at the Republican National Committee, meanwhile, were recovering from a Tuesday lockdown after more than 100 ADAPT protesters blocked entrances to their building on First Street Southeast until late Tuesday evening.

The protest began after a handful of demonstrators pushed their way past security guards and into the RNC lobby. Protesters in wheelchairs then blocked the building’s entrances.

That demonstration lasted until about 10:30 p.m., when police forceably removed the protesters who were inside the RNC and locked the doors, according to ADAPT National Organizer Bob Kafka.

No one was arrested at the RNC, but Kafka did confirm reports that the ADAPT protesters urinated and defecated in the RNC’s lobby during the protest.

“They had to,” Kafka said, adding that the RNC “refused to allow them access to the bathroom.” No other damage was caused during the protest, Kafka said.

“We’re not violent, and we definitely did not destroy property,” he added.

A call to the RNC press office was not returned by Roll Call’s press time Wednesday.

ADAPT advocates returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, but this time their visit followed a more traditional route — they lobbied a handful of Member offices in support of legislation that would shift federal money to community-based disability assistance and away from nursing homes and other institutions.

The Community Choice Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), would allow Medicaid dollars to flow to community-based care options.

Medicaid currently pays for long-term care in nursing homes and other institutions but does not pay for the same services provided at an individual’s home. ADAPT argues this essentially forces people with disabilities to move into such facilities.

“Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, nursing homes are OK, people belong there,” Kafka said. “But I don’t think anybody ever wants to go there.”

The bill has yet to be considered on the floor in either chamber. But ADAPT is more hopeful after this trip that similar legislation will make progress in the next Congress, Kafka said.

The protests, he added, brought attention to an issue that otherwise was being ignored, and meetings with Member offices went well.

“It’s kind of a mixed approach to bringing about the changes that need to happen,” he said.

The goal now is to get McCain on board as a co-sponsor, Kafka said. Democratic presidential contenders Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) already are co-sponsors. A McCain spokesman told Roll Call on Tuesday that the Senator has yet to study the bill in-depth.