The Activist Beat -9/22/11

  • A
  • A
  • A


The Activist Beat with Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call on KALW in San Francisco is a weekly roundup of progressive activism that the mainstream media ignores, undercovers, or misrepresents.

The Activist Beat -9/22/11

Listen to this segment | the entire program

activist_beatI’m Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call on KALW in San Francisco with this week’s Activist Beat for Uprising. Each week I’ll bring you a weekly roundup of progressive activism that the mainstream media ignores, undercovers, or misrepresents.

On Monday, 54 people in wheelchairs were arrested for entering the offices of Republican Congressmen Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Dave Camp of Michigan. They were there to tell the Congressmen to keep their hands off of Medicaid. Representatives Hensarling and Camp are members of the Super Committee and both favor Medicaid cuts.

The demonstrators are members of ADAPT, a national grassroots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action.

Chris Hildebrant, a 35-year-old from Rochester, NY, was the first person arrested in Representative Camp’s office. When Chris was 14, he had a spinal cord injury caused by a diving accident. He says his group took the staff by surprise because they filled the office so quickly.

They were arrested less than an hour after entering. Videos show the hallway filled with cops carrying plastic handcuffs, forcefully pulling the wheelchairs out of the offices. Hildebrant and the others were held from 4:30 on Monday afternoon to 5:30 the next morning.

Organizers say the quick arrests were unusual. When ADAPT members usually occupy politician’s offices, and they do it often, they are there for many hours before the arrests begin.

But this is our new reality. People in wheelchairs, many living off of a monthly stipend, spend their own money to travel from all over the country to DC to share their stories about why Medicaid matters, and the arrests begin not even an hour after they arrive. This is a life and death issue for people with disabilities.

I called Janine Bertram, a longtime ADAPT member to set up interviews with people who were arrested. She does ADAPT’s media outreach. She said I was the only reporter who’s bothered to call.

She believes the media don’t cover the disability rights community because the public doesn’t want images of people in wheelchairs being arrested to enter their consciousness. They’d rather pretend like these issues don’t even exist.

People with disabilities are being hit by budget cuts in every state across the country. In addition to Medicaid, they are also greatly concerned about funding cuts for In-Home Supportive Services, which allows them to live independently in their own homes and remain active in their communities.

So many people with disabilities need help to get out bed, go out, go to work, and participate in their communities. They need Medicaid support to live on their own.

ADAPT is currently involved in a six-day action in DC to fight institutional bias and demand real Medicaid reform.

ADAPT is teaming up with over 50 disability, aging, and civil rights groups for the My Medicaid Matters rally, taking place today in DC. It’s expected to be the biggest gathering of disability advocates in the nation’s capital since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed in 1990.

The disability rights community has been organizing, agitating, and advocating all year, but they rarely receive the coverage they deserve. The media, especially the outlets based in Washington, should be ashamed of their silence on this crucial issue. You can support ADAPT’s efforts, watch video of the arrests, and spread the word about the actions in DC by visiting

And 23,000 nurses from 34 Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health hospitals in California are holding a one-day strike tomorrow to raise awareness about how budget cuts are affecting health benefits and care. Find more information at