Last week I attended the National ADAPT Action in Washington, DC. It was an amazing experience. We fought for the rights of people with disabilities, to get people out of nursing homes and to have a choice in where they live. We marched on John Boehner’s office, we rushed barricades at the White House, we showed up at Tom Perez’s home to make a statement. All of these actions were powerful and empowering. One thing that sticks out the most, and was the source of more tension with the police (even more than rushing the White House) was our standoff at the Capitol.
On the last official day of actions the plan was to go to the steps of the Capitol and deliver an open letter to Congress. We were going to make some speeches and then climb the steps by either walking or crawling up and deliver an open letter from ADAPT to Congress. We marched to Capitol Hill and I noticed that there were police officers at all of the entrances we passed by. Bicycles, uniforms and motorcycles were all in place, but it didn’t occur that they were there because of us since we were going to the main accessible entrance. It became clear pretty quickly that they were indeed there for us when barricades were set up at the main entrance with several police officers behind them. We were being denied access to our (yes, our) Nation’s Capitol. A building filled with our elected representatives and paid for with our tax dollars. Even more insulting than having our path blocked was the fact that, if you didn’t look like you had a disability you could get through the other entrances. I saw several suited men go in as well as some tourists, yet we were being denied. We proceeded to the other accessible entrance and they actually laid down signs and formed a police line to keep us out of that one at well.
I simply could not believe that we were being denied access to a public building and that the discrimination was so blatant, even behind the police line people were coming and going, as long as you didn’t have a disability and weren’t associated with ADAPT. We held our ground, we looked the police in the eye and refused to back down. Around 100 of us stood firm even after being threatened with arrest. After a bus load of backup (that is not an exaggeration, there was literally a bus load of backup brought on to the scene) and three warnings were issued arrests were beginning, still we stood strong. Then something strange happened, the police backed off. No arrests were made, we found ourselves still denied access to our goal, but our message was sent clearly.
We were angry, but empowered. We were insulted, yet emboldened. We were denied, but set free by our beliefs and convictions. In the end we probably got more press attention by being denied that we would have by doing our action as planned. The absurd police presence helped gather the attention of some of those cameras that were covering the government shutdown (which was then 2 days old).