Protesters opposing GOP health care bill descend upon lawmakers, some arrested
mheim3011/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Protesters around the country on Thursday responded to lawmakers who declined to hold town halls by bringing their complaints straight to the doors of their elected officials’ offices.
From Arkansas to Arizona, supporters of Obamacare chanted, sang songs and in some cases, got arrested as they made their case against the Senate Republican health care bill.
The Arizona chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America, a grassroots PAC operating inside the Democratic Party, said five of its members were arrested at a gathering outside the Phoenix office of Sen. Jeff Flake after a building manager called the police, claiming they were standing on private property. ABC affiliate KGUN reported that the four women and one man were taken into custody for trespassing after they repeatedly refused to leave the private property.
Protesters chanted “Where is Jeff Flake!” and “Now’s the time to stand and fight! Health care is a human right!”
In Tucson, Pima County Sheriff’s deputies arrested two men at a health care-related protest at Sen. Jeff Flake’s office Thursday morning, according to KGUN. Deputies say the men were arrested just before 9 a.m. for reported threats. One of the protesters allegedly referenced the shooting of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, according to KGUN.
— KGUN9 On Your Side (@kgun9) July 6, 2017
In Arkansas, protesters waited in Sen. Tom Boozman’s Little Rock office, but were told by a staffer to limit themselves to ten people inside the small waiting room.
“Let’s please be respectful of each other,” the staffer told the group.
“Well, we would like for our senator to be respectful,” a protester responded. “If you’re going to have constituents, and if he’s going to be the U.S. Senator, he should have an office where constituents can come sit and speak their minds!”
At Sen. Tom Cotton’s office, in the same building as Boozman’s office, other protesters sang pro-Medicaid songs, to the tune of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah.”
And another protester told a Cotton staffer, “The legislation is supposed to make cuts to VA services … as a veteran Sen. Cotton should have other veterans in mind.” The staffer responded, “We appreciate your service. Thank you.”
Sen. Cruz was one of the few Senate Republicans to hold a town hall. Most of the questions at the event in Austin were on veterans’ health care, but he did have a few spirited exchanges with supporters of the ACA.
“I’m happy to have a conversation, but if we’re just yelling back and forth at each other, we can’t have that,” he told one heckler.
At the end of the event he thanked the largely friendly audience for a “respectful and spirited debate,” adding, “we may not have convinced each other but that’s part of the democratic process.”
— Mike Perchick (@MichaelPerchick) July 6, 2017
Protesters, who chanted songs, also rallied outside of Sen. John Cornyn’s office in Austin.
Police were spotted escorting protesters away, and one of the officers was spotted frisking a male protester.
Obamacare supporters held a “Save Medicaid Rally” in Denver, where several hundred people showed up.
One female protester urged rally-goers to call Sen. Corey Gardner. “Call him at least once a day and tell him to vote no and to commit to us, before he leaves Colorado, to vote no on this ridiculous tax cut for the wealthy!” she said.
Activists at Sen. Corey Gardner’s Denver office didn’t get a face-to-face meeting, but they did get a 15-minute phone chat with their senator, who was not in the Denver area.
They told him they “demanded” that he vote “no” on the Senate bill — but Gardner said he couldn’t say how he would vote because the bill as presented is just a “discussion draft,” not the final version.
“I can’t commit yes or no,” he told the activists, from the Denver chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.
A few dozen protesters chanted and held signs outside Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office in Lexington.
“Don’t get sick! Please die quick!” chanted protesters, mocking the GOP’s healthcare plan.
Sen. Jerry Moran was treated warmly by a crowd at a town hall in Palco that seemed largely supportive of Obamacare, because he opposes the current Senate GOP bill.
He had a few exchanges with the liberal members of the audience, but all of them were respectful. This was a crowd that clearly appreciated being among the few that actually had an opportunity to talk to their senator over this recess.
“If public hearings are not held in the Senate on the next Senate bill, will you withhold your vote?” one attendee asked Moran of the health care bill.
“I will not necessarily. That’s not the criteria. I know that’s not the answer you were looking for,” Moran responded.
“No!” she said back, though she listened attentively as he explained why that wasn’t the case.
Moran touched on the scarcity of Republican town halls.
“I’ve been told that it’s silly to hold town hall meetings,” he said. “You may not be my voters, but you are my constituents. And you deserve to have a conversation with me,” he added, to applause.
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