Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sen. Cory Gardner's staff may have tried to "heat out" protesters

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 12:45 PM

UPDATE: Looks like activists in Denver are trying to one-up activists here in badassery. A group of nine people, many with disabilities, have staked out Sen. Cory Gardner's office in Denver, refusing to leave until he commits to voting "no" on the unpopular bill, according to the Denver Post and other outlets. (Remember, the militant side of the disability rights movement originated in Denver.) The action was organized by ADAPT — a national disability rights group based in Denver  — with a specific focus on preserving now-threatened home and community based programs that help people live independently.

The protesters broadcast the action on social media, drawing attention, support and even supplies and food that onlookers sent in. A core group stayed the night last night, using blankets and pillows they brought for just this purpose. Gardner's office staff reportedly denied the protesters access to the restroom, prompting this memorable lede by Westword's Kyle Harris: "A sit-in almost turned into a shit-in..." Follow his reporting for the latest.

And, lastly, here's a dispatch from activist musician Kalyn Heffernan, best known as the MC in Wheelchair Sports Camp, which won "Best Hip-Hop Group" at the 2017 Westword Music Awards the same night Heffernan was sleeping on the floor of her Senator's office. She's on the left, wrapped in the yellow blanket — not an unfamiliar position for a touring musician, but still not a comfortable one.

The group says they'll stay until Gardner votes "no," no matter how long that takes. Damn.

—— ORIGINAL POST 6/28 10:59 a.m. ———

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As you can read more about in this week's issue of the Independent,
people aren't happy with the U.S. Senate's tax-cut-paid-for-by-slashing-poor-people's-health-insurance bill that for some reason everyone's agreed to call "health care reform." Not happy at all!

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who sat on the secretive 13-member drafting committee, hasn't taken a position yet. (He's under less political pressure to do so now that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed a vote on the legislation, which would leave an estimated 22 million Americans without health insurance by 2026, acknowledging that he doesn't have the needed votes to pass it at this time.) But his constituents are ramping up pressure of their own.

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A group of 10 or so people went to Gardner's Tejon Street office on Tuesday to host a "filibuster," in which they kept on talking for hours and refused to leave. Organizer Sherrie Smith says they gave forewarning to his staffers that they'd be coming in for a chat at 11 a.m., but didn't mention that they had no intention of leaving. They ended up spending upwards of seven hours in the office lobby, trading turns holding the floor.

One by one, they told Gardner's staff how they'd be affected should Trumpcare become law. One talked about how her daughter's abortion at Planned Parenthood allowed her to go to college and pursue her ambitions. Another talked about how insurance obtained on the individual market saved her kids' lives. Another talked about veterans, and why it's unacceptable to revoke their access to tax credits. And so on. 

After an hour or so, protesters noticed it was getting pretty toasty in the office. Air conditioning had been turned off, Smith says, but they could feel cold air blowing on the staff's side of the partitioned office. They weren't allowed to open a door to the hallway or open windows. At least one protester was so overheated she was too dizzy to read her prepared statement. Protesters with children had to leave when the kids began complaining and crying.

"It's obvious they want us to leave," Smith told  the Indy by phone. "And trust me, I'd love to be somewhere else, but when it's so abundantly clear they want us to leave, I have to do the opposite."

Protesters reportedly got no verbal requests to leave. But they interpreted the hot, stuffy environment as a signal to that effect. A phone call to the office went unreturned. We'll update this if we hear back.

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Protesters say now that a vote has been delayed until after the July 4 recess, they'd like a public town hall to share their concerns directly with Gardner.

"He has time to meet with the Koch brothers, but not with us?" Smith asked. "Oh, we will not let up."

Organizers are planning a rally outside the downtown office on Thursday.

A note about these photos of the protesters: Their red costumes are meant to invoke The Handmaid's Tale — a dystopian novel about a totalitarian theocracy written by feminist author Margaret Atwood, recently popularized through a Hulu adaptation. The point there is that the costume wearers don't want to be subjugated by their male representatives who have made clear their opposition to women's access to reproductive health care, right to choose an abortion and paid maternity leave.

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