photo by Tim Wheat, ADAPT at Washington DC
The early days of May, 2011 saw Washington, DC invaded by 300 members of a national grass-roots community organisation – ADAPT – bringing together disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom. ADAPT was in Washington to protest against Representative Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal, which includes massive cuts to Medicaid.
Medicaid is the United States health program for people and families with low incomes and resources. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, and is managed by the states. Under the Ryan Plan, Medicaid programs would be cut by 35%, which translates to a loss of $772 billion in human services. Additionally, the Ryan Plan proposes a system of Medicaid block grants for states—giving states greater ability to make cuts. Currently there are 60 million people counting on Medicaid right now, 8.5 million are disabled people; 8.8 million are on low incomes, frail, elderly and disabled individuals who rely on Medicaid to plug the gaps in Medicare coverage, such as long term care. Medicaid pays for vital services to assist people with learning difficulties to live and work in the community rather than be forced into an institution. ADAPT went to Washington to demand:
STOP CUTS TO MEDICAID AND NO MEDICAID BLOCK GRANTS TO THE STATES.
On Monday, 2nd of May, ADAPT occupied the Rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building demanding that Congress derail Ryan’s budget proposal. As evening approached the Capitol Police began arresting ADAPT members from all over the country, who had remained in the Cannon House Office Building since midday. The ADAPTers wanted three Representatives to publicly withdraw their support for Medicaid budget cuts and Medicaid state block grants. They stated that without this commitment, ADAPT were willing to do whatever it takes
“…to defend the right of people with disabilities and seniors to live in our homes, not nursing homes and institutions.”
By night’s end 91 members of ADAPT had been arrested.
The following day 10 more members were arrested for “unlawful conduct” as they sat and chanted in Rep. Paul Ryan’s office demanding that Medicaid not be a block-grant to US states. The 10 were the ADAPT
negotiating team who were there to lead a discussion on rebalancing and budgetary concerns, clarifying that institutional long-term care options are more expensive than providing long-term care services chosen and directed by Americans in our own homes. When it became clear Representative Ryan’s team wasn’t planning to give them anything more than lip-service, ADAPT ramped it up. The 10 were chanting loud and strong “No More Block Grants,” followed by “We Want Ryan.”
At the same time approximately 250 ADAPT members were out in the hallway began using cell phones to call Representative Ryan’s office and demand that he meet with them to discuss how block grants limit home and community-based options that save money spent on long-term care services.
The following day saw ADAPTers focus on the U.S. Senate, particularly the Gang of Six, the bipartisan group of Senators who are charged with creating the Senate’s budget plan in response to Ryan’s Plan. Six contingents of around fifty ADAPTers each visited one of the six Senators’ offices to demand that the Senate budget plan eliminate the institutional bias, prevent caps on Medicaid spending, and get rid of the idea to block grant Medicaid funding to states. In addition, we asked that the Senate work to introduce legislation that will mandate community choice as a service in every state, and work with ADAPT to ensure that our voices are at the table in every decision that affects us. ADAPT threw down a hard line that no matter how supportive the Senators may be of our cause, this issue is life and death for us and we cannot be satisfied until we have specific budgetary commitments.
Six ADAPT leaders also met with senior advisors at the White House on disability and the Affordable Care Act, respectively. There third action was attending a press conference jointly convened by the National Association of County Organizations’ (NACo) Large Urban County Caucus and various Senators.
All in all ADAPT made its presence known in Washington at exactly the right time as states flounder through their Medicaid crises and the Senate and House get ready for a showdown over the budget. ADAPT is, as always, ready to pitch into the fray to fight to DEFEND OUR FREEDOM!
Crucial issues to consider
In the opinion of DPAC these events across the pond highlight a number of crucial issues. First, the cuts taking place in the UK should not be viewed in isolation nor simply reduced to a question of mismanagement by the previous Government; they are taking place due to the financial crisis caused by agents of global capitalism. Agents who put profits before people thereby employing an economic system that cannot serve communities nor protect the planet from greed and exploitation.
Second, what this means is our response to the cuts cannot simply have a local or national dynamic; disabled people must show our solidarity with disabled people across the globe. We must support our disabled brothers and sisters in the US against budgets cuts to Medicaid but we should also support our disabled brothers and sisters across Africa and the Middle East as they struggle against injustice, inequalities and oppression.
Third, the significance of the events of 2nd – 4th of May in Washington, DC for disabled people is to note how organised and determined the ADAPTers were to take their message to the political elite. They didn’t go “cap-in-hand” like a Victorian Oliver Twist to beg for more whilst hanging onto the coat tails of the charity sector. ADAPT had clear demands and were prepared to back these up with direct militant action – they understand that disabled and older people’s are at stake. ADAPT also offers clear political leadership – something which is disturbingly lacking in the UK; between October 2010 and May 2011 there has been little done by national DPOs to protect the interests of disabled people.
Protestors at Triton Sq, London
In the UK Disability activists, claimant groups and anti-cuts campaigners have called a week of action against poverty pimps Atos Origin beginning on Monday 9th May with a picnic and party in Triton Square home of their head office. All week events are taking place across the UK.
Thursday, May 12 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Unison offices, 19th floor McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway. B4 7NN
Public Meeting: Benefit Cuts: Who are they targeting? How can we stop them? – called by DPAC and Right To Work
Then on Friday May 13th at noon outside Waterstones bookshop opposite bull statue in Bullring centre join them for leafleting and street theatre ‘ The Computer Says NO’ an adaptation of a Brighton Benefit Campaign play.
1:00PM Saturday, May 14th
Montague Street Worthing
As part of the week of protest, Brighton Benefits Campaign will be performing our play ‘Dick Whittington & His Work Capability Assessment or The Computer Says No!’ for the good people of Worthing.
Please join us to support, leaflet & shout at the Computer!
Bristol – 3.30-5.30 Thursday 12th May
After a previous successful demonstration outside ATOS, Flowers Hill, voicing our dissent at the way this Government is attacking the most vulnerable in our society and using ATOS as a way of doing it, we are asking you join us for another demonstration between 3.30-5.30 Thursday 12th May 2011 outside ATOS, Flowers Hill, Brislington.
Cardiff – Monday, May 9 · 12:30pm – 3:30pm
Disability Benefits Building, St Agnes Street, Gabalfa, Cardiff
As part of the National Week of Action against Benefit Cuts and Atos Origin kicking off on Monday 9th of May, we will be staging a protest outside the Disability Benefits Building at St. Agnes road, Gabalfa, Cardiff.
Bring music, drums, banners, placards, snacks to share and brighten up the faceless corporate wasteland that is the Benefits Building!
Between 12 and 2pm on Friday 13th May
Medway Against the Cuts (MAC) will be holding a protest picket of the ATOS Testing Centre at 1a Batchelor St Chatham between 12 and 2pm on Friday 13th May. Medway Against the Cuts can be contacted at medway-against-the firstname.lastname@example.org
11.00am – 1.00pm Monday, 9th May
Atos Origin, 44 York Place, (near top of Broughton St)
The Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and Black Triangle will be protesting outside ATOS healthcare offices in Edinburgh on Monday the 9th of May.
Atos Healthcare, 7/8 Queens Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 1QP
There will be a protest at the Atos office in Hastings on Tuesday 10th May at 9:30am
Liverpool – Picket Atos Origin
Monday, May 9 · 11:30am – 2:30pm
Atos Origin, The Plaza, Old Hall Street, Liverpool
As part of this week of action, Liverpool Solidarity Federation are calling for all those who stand in support of disabled people to join us in a picket of their offices in Liverpool the same day.
Assemble in The Plaza, Old Hall Street, at 11.30am on Monday 9th May. Bring flags, banners, and placards.
London – Party and Protest in Triton Square
Monday, May 9 – 2pm
Claimants will also be leafleting outside Atos Origin/DWP Offices on Lisson Grove, NW1 from 11am
London – Hardest Hits March – 11 May
Some autonomous claimants plan to attend and will be meeting up with WinVisible at 11.30 on Victoria Embankment at the corner of Derby Gate SW1. The march will go past Parliament towards Millbank, ending at Dean Stanley St. The nearest tube station is Westminster. Bring anti-atos placards, leaflets etc
Manchester– Wednesday, May 11 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Albert Bridge House, Bridge Street, Manchester
Called by Manchester Coalition Against Cuts. If your organisation would like to support this demonstration please contact: email@example.com
11 May · 17:00 – 18:30 Grey’s Monument Newcastle Coalition of Resistance supporters will be at Monument from 5pm on Wednesday 11th May in support of ‘Rights not Charity’, supporting campaigns by benefit claimants and disabled people facing cuts to benefits.
11:00AM Monday, May 9th
Day of action against ATOS origin and Office Angels / Adecco
Meet at 11am outside Office Angels (located in the city centre past the right lion. Next door to MAC and opposite The Square bar/club)
Monday, May 11 – 11am
Plymouth Claimants Union will be demonstrating outside the Atos Origin Argosy House , Marsh Mills , medical centre in Plymouth from 11.00 am Monday 9th May. Free transport from city centre. Cntact firstname.lastname@example.org
There is now a Cornwall DPAC group formed which may be contacted at email@example.com We are holding a protest day in Truro and going to the ATOS office. Meet outside Weatherspoons in Lemon Quay at 10.30am on Wednesday May 11.
In the USA the term ‘people with disabilities’ equates with the UK’s ‘people with impairments’.
- Bob Williams-Findlay