Campus Notebook: All About Access

Posted April 21, 2010 at 6:25pm

Sixteen protesters, some of whom are wheelchair-users, will stand trial today for an April 2008 protest that cut off access to then-GOP presidential candidate John McCain’s Senate office and the Republican National Committee headquarters for most of an afternoon.

[IMGCAP(1)]The group will stand trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for trespassing on federal property.

One protester, Cassie Holdsworth-James, said in a release: “I don’t know what will happen to me, but this is a call to action for [President Barack] Obama. We need to end the Medicaid bias.”

The trial stems from April 30, 2008, when hundreds of protesters from the disability advocacy group ADAPT gathered at the Arizona lawmaker’s suite in the Russell Senate Office Building and at the RNC on First Street Southeast, urging McCain to sign onto the Community Choice Act, which would increase access to community-based health care programs for those needing long-term care.

A handful of demonstrators pushed their way past security guards and into the RNC lobby, and protesters in wheelchairs blocked the building’s entrances.

After blocking the RNC doors, some protesters wrapped yellow police-like tape around the entrances, while others unveiled a number of signs, including one reading “Stop Funding Institutions” and another reading “Sen. McCain Support Community Choice.”

In Russell, dozens of protesters — most of them also in wheelchairs — blocked off much of the second floor and took over the lobby of McCain’s office, chanting, “People are dying, shame on you” and “I’d rather go to jail than die in a nursing home.”

The Capitol Police arrested 24 protesters, some of them in wheelchairs, in the Russell Building, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

The protest was one in a series that ADAPT has sponsored over the years in support of legislation that would shift federal money to community-based disability assistance and away from nursing homes and other institutions.

Submit your Campus Notebook tips here.