Wheelchair-Bound Handcuff Selves to White House – No, Really

Update: See Tommy Christopher’s take at the end of my story.

Yesterday afternoon, disabled citizens, many of them in electric alex01thumbwheelchairs, had handcuffed themselves to the fence outside the White House in protest. No, really. The issue in question was the Community Choice Act, which the President co-sponsored in his senatorial days. Apparently ten of these senior activists met with members of Obama’s staff, and were told that the President would no longer support the bill. They did not take this development lying down. Many of them staged an impromptu protest and
ninety-one protesters ended up handcuffing themselves to the White House fence. After being given three warnings by the police, they were arrested, and released with a summons.

White House and Police Cars

The police talking to, and arresting, some of the protesters.

The police talking to, and arresting, some of the protesters.

Tommy tipped me off to the protest and arrests as I was eating lunch, since he had to go to the briefing, so I finished my (bacon!) cheeseburger and hopped on down. Mostly, I got close enough to take some pictures and a little video, and I even got an interview with one of the (non-arrested) protesters, chilling in the shade (such as there was) in Lafayette Park, where the small rally moved after much of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was sealed off to pedestrian traffic.

Leighann Spilman, an ADAPT activist from Kansas, told me that the protesters were ticketed because it’s illegal to have a rally of more than 25 people on the sidewalk, and that in some states the option exists for Medicaid to pay for in-home care for the disabled as an alternative to nursing homes (all states that receive Medicaid must use a portion of the funds to pay for nursing homes). The Community Choice Act presents the option for those who require care to choose what is known as “community care”, which would allow them to remain in their own homes rather than living in nursing homes or similar institutions. It’s a serious issue, and one that frankly could use a little more press.

After doing a bit of research with the omniscient Googlemachine, I learned more about the Community Choice Act and ADAPT itself. However, through the same Googling, I discovered that the Community Choice Act, according to GovTrack, hasn’t even yet made it out of committee. Perhaps they’d have better luck protesting in front of Congress, because until the bill gets to him, the President has no authority to do anything about it…and given that he did co-sponsor the bill, one would think that President Obama would readily sign it into law.

But, you know, whatever. Far be it from me to try and insert logic into this country’s political proceedings and how they’re perceived by the public.

Wheelchair-Bound Protesters Chain Selves to White House Fence

Posted:
04/28/09
Filed Under:Democrats, Barack Obama <!– Filed Under: –> <!– Filed Under:Democrats, Barack Obama –>

<!– the following end divs moved to CommentLabel, ugly but necessary

–>

On my way in to yesterday’s White House press briefing, already running late, I was unable to enter the White House at the North Entrance, and had to lug my 637lb briefcase in the 900º heat all the way to southwest entrance. The reason for this monumental inconvenience? Some protesters had chained themselves to the White House fence, so the entire street was closed.

I found this out after walking through a sea of electric wheelchairs. The security guard at the southwest entrance told me that they had had a meeting, they went in happy, but then they “went bad.”

Daily Dose’s Alex Villanueva went down to find out what made them go bad: //
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Yesterday afternoon, senior citizens, many of them in electric wheelchairs, had handcuffed themselves to the fence outside the White House in protest. No, really. The issue in question was the Community Choice Act, which the President co-sponsored in his senatorial days. Apparently ten of these senior activists met with members of Obama’s staff, and were told that the President would no longer support the bill. They did not take this development lying down. Many of them staged an impromptu protest and ninety-one protesters ended up handcuffing themselves to the White House fence. After being given three warnings by the police, they were arrested, and released with a summons.

I have to say, I’ve got mixed feelings on this one. First and foremost, I support their right to protest, no matter how big of a pain in the ass it is to me personally. I give them props for cuffing themselves to the fence, but I was a little disappointed to hear that they just left after the police issued them citations. That’s not so much fighting the power as waiting for the power to scold you before you give in.

I expect it is cold comfort to these folks, but the political reality here is that in order for the President to enact the kinds of changes needed in this time of crisis, some things have to be postponed. I’m sure the Community Choice Act won’t be the first, or last, worthy idea to be deferred.

And again, with all due respect to their passion and hard work for their cause, I couldn’t help but think of the disabled veteran, Tanonnah Tyson, that I met during inaugural week. While these folks are protesting to get care in their homes instead of a nursing home, she lives in a homeless shelter despite working a full-time job. We shouldn’t have to choose, but since we must, there are those with greater needs.// // Tommy on: Daily Dose:

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16 Comments

  1. Great story Alex–and you’re right, it’s a serious issue. Giving up their houses and being forced to live in nursing homes are scary prospects for our seniors–so many go quickly downhill once they are placed in that environment. It is equally hard on the families of those seniors.

    We will all be there someday–best get a handle on this now, or we might just as well give into the Soylent Green concept.

  2. Thanks, PCL. My grandmother lucked out – when she had to move to a home, it was an excellent one, and we saw her at least once a week. My aunt’s a doctor, and she interned at a nursing home for one summer when she was younger. The quality of care that residents receive is directly proportional to how often their families come to see them – institutions are understaffed, and businesses. It’s a cruel, cold way to look at human life, especially the senior citizens who have contributed so much, but it’s the way things are in the current system.

  3. Alex, you are 100% correct on your ‘quality of care’ reasoning–family members MUST stay involved. Most seniors would probably rather die than go into a nursing home (even if it’s temporary)–the fear of being forgotten is strong and not unfounded.

  4. Great Woman on the street point of view!!

    Alex, we are just going to LOVE having you write here with Tommy, the 2 of you really stay on top of the issues…

    Thanks for the story!

  5. Your report is the best I have read so far. ADAPT has be to the congress, and will continue. The protest at the gates of the White Housre is due to the Obama admin failing to incluse the Community Choise Act in plans for major Health Care Reform.

    Senator Obama did support the CCA, but has failed to take the lead on this since he has become president.

    The issue in not just seniors being forced into nursing homes, but people living with serious disabilities cannot choose to live in the community without losing their health care. We want the Money to follow the people, and not be attached to the institutions. Is it just to incarcirate PWDs who have committed no crime, other than to need health care?

    We want President Obama to take the lead, work with ADAPT, and Let Our People Go!

    This is a civil rights issue. What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!

  6. There’s some pork related gag about the fuzz here.

  7. It is cheaper for county medicaid offices to provide home health care than put older people into nursing homes. I’m recovering from 3rd open heart surgery with a paralized wife in wheelchair. Home health care allows us to stay in home, happier, healthier and cheaper for ALL government expenditures. It’s a no-brainer to me.

  8. […] business is getting old – don’t you have something else to natter on about? Like the pitiful state of our nursing home system, for example? Or are you just afraid of saying something that matters for a change? I’m all […]

  9. […] Seniors Handcuff Selves to White House – No, Really […]

  10. 1. I am mystified why you refer to the protesters as “seniors.” There were many disabled protesters in their 20s, 30s and 40s – do all disabled people look like “seniors” to you?

    2. The protesters are well aware of the status of the CCA. If the president identified this bill as a priority item as part of health care reform (long-term care), it would bloody well move out of committee.

    3. The president and many of his advisers come from Illinois, which is at the bottom (below *any* others) in terms of community-based supports for people with disabilities. While Obama, as a Senator and candidate, endorsed the CCA, it’s entirely possible that the Illinois pro-institution mindset followed him into the White House.

  11. 1. Thanks for the correction! I got to the protest kind of late and couldn’t get close enough to see everyone properly since the police tape was already up, and the protesters I did see up close were older. It was a rash choice of words, and thank you for calling me on it. The post has been edited accordingly.

    2. I understand this – however, it still, in my mind, would make more sense to prod the people who can actually do something about it right now as opposed to (better yet, in addition to!) in future. But perhaps I’m shortsighted.

  12. […] Seniors Handcuff Selves to White House – No, Really […]

  13. […] Seniors Handcuff Selves to White House – No, Really […]

  14. Community Choice Act does not need to make it out of committee to be put into law by the states. And it is important that we Americans know this, and why? For god sake, it’s our country. Wake up or loose it.

    The Community Choice Act (CCA) has already caught on in New England and MA and NY passed similar legislation years ago. Congressmen from both parties have signed on to the bill, which was formerly named MiCASSA

    The legislation known as MiCASSA (the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act) is the primary piece of legislation that ADAPT wrote several years ago and is a life link to independence for people with disabilities stuck in institutions that want to get out. It’s been on top of the agenda for ADAPT and other leading disability advocates who are trying to counter the institutional bias that exists in this country.

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was the first legislator to introduce MiCASA in July 1997. The bill garnered bipartisan support in the 15th Congress and more than 200 national and state disability organizations and coalitions offered their support of the legislation. Kudos for the conservatives and bipartisan supporters.

    Additionally, “The Money Follows The Person” is one of the basic underlying concepts of MiCASSA. What it suggests is that the money that the states currently use to pay for an individual’s care in a nursing facility or other institution would follow that person into the community when he or she leaves the institution. This money could then be used to help pay for rent, food, or other needs that the person may have.

    The Money Follows the Person is an initiative that was part of the President Bush’s proposal for a “Money Follows the Person Program”. It was included in the Presidents 2005 budget request as a major component of the President’s New Freedom Initiative to integrate people with disabilities into the community.

    President Bush’s proposal provides 350 million dollars to states per year for five years for a total of 1.75 billion dollars. It provides 100% of the cost for the first year that a person moves from an institutional setting into the community. After that, the federal government pays its regular Medicaid rate.

    Bush’s initiative helped states comply with the ADA and the Olmstead decision. The Supreme Court said in Olmstead that needless institutionalization was discrimination under the ADA. Again, more kudos for the conservatives. And by the way, the preceding three paragraphs where taken for the very ADAPT site you linked us to.

    I guess if its not purported ‘evil” about Bush, its not worth mentioning. How bigoted we have become.

    Your claim that “Apparently ten of these senior activists met with members of Obama’s staff, and were told that the President would no longer support the bill.” it is pretty serious claim and yes, it is an evil. So thank you for covering at least that.

    Perhaps though, Obama’s administration just needs to find a way to make it look like it’s “their” idea instead and their waiting for the right opportunity. You know, timing in politics is everything. More on that latter.

    Your also right about what you claim with Leighann Spilman, an ADAPT activist from Kansas when he told you that “in some states the option exists for Medicaid to pay for in-home care for the disabled as an alternative to nursing homes.

    This is true because in fact Kansas in one of the states that President Bush’s proposals went into law by Kansas State legislators. Which all states are free to move forward with if they choose. Yes you read that correctly. So way aren’t they? Good question, more on that below.

    Several states have already chosen to utilize President Bush’s The Money Follows The Person initiative . In Texas, over 1,200 people came out of nursing homes under this program. Looks like Bush put his money where is mouth is there. And the state of Utah uses it as an administrative practice, while the states of Maryland and Kansas, yes Kansas, the same state your sighted activist comes from, have adopted it as law. Google it!

    So now this leaves us Americans with two questions.

    1) Why is Obama playing politics under the guise of “change” on this issue?
    2) Why are all states not exercising their right to state sovereignty and enacting the Bush initiatives.

    Answer to #1. In Obama’s case, he dose not like ralleying for supporting of states exercising their sovereignty because if flies in the face and is counter productive to his desire to increase the power, scope, and reach of the federal government. It’s a tricky tight rope for him to walk because out right efforts to do so are a clear violation of the US Constitution.

    So hence, his community civil core of mandatory “volunteers”, all federally funded, to work in communities all over American to get as many Americans to support his agenda for “change” as possible. It will be from within this mandatory core of volunteers that you will see Obamas support for MiCASSA / CCA arise. You can mark my words on that. Hence the new loophole for by-passing state sovereignty has been established. And with the name change from MICASSA to CCA, it has cut ties with what conservatives have been working hard on as MICASSA for over 11 years now.

    Answer to #2. As for why not all states are enacting MiCASSA / CAC on their own and making the efforts to turn this into law is the easiest question of all. Need some help with that answer Alex? Follow the money.

    The greed and corruption in both Federal and State government would make Enron blush. And we as taxpayers only ever get to see just the slightest glimpse of it. When it comes to the disabled / elderly, crooks have always been scamming on the elderly and disabled since the dawn of time, and federal and state legislators are not one bit different, except they have more ways and means to do it and covering their acts.

    Summary: Obama should be loudly voicing his concerns for way more states have not enacted the proposals of MICASSA / CCP by Bush that many state already have as evidenced above. This would (1) maintain Constitutional respect for state sovereignty while (2) at the exact same time be shaming those state legislators for having their hands in the disabled/elderly cookie jar because they will not be able to come up with an excuse. That would be a win / win political maneuver for all of us big time. But only a truly bipartisan President would do it.

  15. Community Choice Act (CCA) does not need to make it out of committee to be put into law by the states. And it is important that we Americans know this, and why?

    The Community Choice Act (CCA) has already caught on in New England and MA and NY passed similar legislation years ago. Congressmen from both parties have signed on to the bill, which was formerly named MiCASSA

    The legislation known as CCA if formally known as MiCASSA (the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act) as it is the primary piece of legislation that ADAPT wrote several years ago and is a life link to independence for people with disabilities stuck in institutions that want to get out. It’s been on top of the agenda for ADAPT and other leading disability advocates who are trying to counter the institutional bias that exists in this country.

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was the first legislator to introduce MiCASA in July 1997. The bill garnered bipartisan support in the 15th Congress and more than 200 national and state disability organizations and coalitions offered their support of the legislation. Kudos for the conservatives and bipartisan supporters.

    Additionally, “The Money Follows The Person” is one of the basic underlying concepts of MiCASSA. What it suggests is that the money that the states currently use to pay for an individual’s care in a nursing facility or other institution would follow that person into the community when he or she leaves the institution. This money could then be used to help pay for rent, food, or other needs that the person may have.

    The Money Follows the Person is an initiative that was part of the President Bush’s proposal for a “Money Follows the Person Program”. It was included in the Presidents 2005 budget request as a major component of the President’s New Freedom Initiative to integrate people with disabilities into the community.

    President Bush’s proposal provides 350 million dollars to states per year for five years for a total of 1.75 billion dollars. It provides 100% of the cost for the first year that a person moves from an institutional setting into the community. After that, the federal government pays its regular Medicaid rate.

    Bush’s initiative helped states comply with the ADA and the Olmstead decision. The Supreme Court said in Olmstead that needless institutionalization was discrimination under the ADA. Again, more kudos for the conservatives and bipartisn supporters. And by the way, the preceding three paragraphs where taken from the very ADAPT site you linked us to Alex.

    I guess if its not purported ‘evil” about Bush, its not worth mentioning. How bigoted we have become.

    Your claim that “Apparently ten of these senior activists met with members of Obama’s staff, and were told that the President would no longer support the bill.” it is pretty serious claim and yes, it is an evil. So thank you for covering at least that evil..

    Perhaps though, Obama’s administration just needs to find a way to make it look like it’s “their” idea instead and their waiting for the right opportunity. Remember, timing in politics is everything. More on that latter.

    Your also right about what you claim with Leighann Spilman, the ADAPT activist from Kansas when he told you that “in some states the option exists for Medicaid to pay for in-home care for the disabled as an alternative to nursing homes.

    This is true because in fact Kansas in one of the states that President Bush’s proposals went into law by Kansas State legislators. Which all states are free to move forward with if they choose. Yes you read that correctly. So way aren’t they? Good question, more on that below.

    Several states have already chosen to utilize President Bush’s The Money Follows The Person initiative . In Texas, over 1,200 people came out of nursing homes under this program. Looks like Bush put his money where is mouth is there. And the state of Utah uses it as an administrative practice, while the states of Maryland and Kansas, yes Kansas, the same state your sighted activist comes from, have adopted it as law. Google it!

    So now this leaves us Americans with two questions.

    1) Why is Obama playing politics under the guise of “change” on this issue?

    2) Why are all states not exercising their right to state sovereignty and enacting the Bush initiatives.

    Answer to #1. In Obama’s case, he dose not like ralleying for support of states exercising their sovereignty because if flies in the face and thus counter productive to his desire to increase the power, scope, and reach of the federal government. It’s a tricky tight rope for him to walk because out right efforts to do so are a clear violation of the US Constitution.

    So hence, his community civil core of “mandatory” volunteers, as if that is not an oximoron, all federally funded, to work in communities all over American to get as many Americans to support his agenda for “change” as possible. It will be from within this mandatory core of volunteers that you will see Obamas support for MiCASSA / CCA arise. You can mark my words on that. Hence the new loophole for by-passing state sovereignty has been established in practice and an issue of vital importance has been prostitued as its vehical. And with the name change from MICASSA to CCA, or maybe even changed again, it has cut ties with what conservatives and true bipartisims have been working hard on as MICASSA for over 12 years now.

    Answer to #2. As for why not all states are enacting MiCASSA / CAC on their own and making the efforts to turn this into practice and law is the easiest question of all. Need some help with that answer Alex? Follow the money.

    The greed and corruption in both Federal and State government would make Enron blush. And we as taxpayers only ever get to see just the slightest glimpse of it. When it comes to the disabled / elderly, crooks have always been scamming on the them since the dawn of time, and federal and state legislators are not one bit different, except they have more ways and means to do it and covering their acts.

    Summary: Obama should be loudly voicing his concerns for way more states have not enacted the proposals of MICASSA / CCP by Bush that many state already have as evidenced above. This would (1) maintain Constitutional respect for state sovereignty while (2) at the exact same time be shaming those state legislators for having their hands in the disabled/elderly cookie jar because they will not be able to come up with an excuse. That would be a win / win political maneuver for all of us big time. But only a truly bipartisan President would do it.

  16. […] is the same cause about which activists met with Obama Administration officials in late April.  That meeting didn’t go so well: On my way in to yesterday’s White House press briefing, […]


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