More than 100 protesters with disabilities staged a “die-in” outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Thursday morning, where several videos taken at the scene depict protesters being physically picked up and carried away by police and others being lifted back into their wheelchairs and pushed away.
The protesters convened minutes after a panel of Senate Republicans released a healthcare plan that would severely limit Medicaid while giving major tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.
“Don’t shut down this protest,” one man shouted. “Disabled Americans’ lives are on the line.”
According to a Congressional Budget Offic estimate, roughly 10 million people with disabilities get their health coverage from Medicaid.
The protest was planned by ADAPT, a national disability rights organization that was originally founded to lobby for more accessibility in public transportation. This isn’t ADAPT’s first conflict at the Capitol—six years ago, 89 protesters were arrested for demonstrating against Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal to severely reduce Medicaid funding.
“Our lives and liberties shouldn’t be stolen to give a tax break to the wealthy,” Bruce Darling, one of the ADAPT protesters, said in a press release on Thursday.
The ADAPT protesters didn’t want to leave without a fight, and some literally shed blood, Daily Beast reporter Andrew Desiderio tweeted from the scene:
“People will die,” one unidentified woman told reporters, as she was being steered down the hallway. “People will die because of this.”
Update, 5:03 PM ET, 06/22/2017:
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police said 43 disability rights activists were arrested after Thursday’s demonstration.
“Many of the demonstrators, as part of their protest activities, removed themselves from their wheelchairs and lay themselves on the floor, obstructing passage through the hallway and into nearby offices,” Eva Malecki, the communications director for the U.S. Capitol Police, said. “Officers warned the demonstrators to cease their unlawful activities or be faced with arrest.”
Malecki added that the 43 protesters were taken to police headquarters, where they were being charged with violating local ordinances that forbid “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.”