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ADAPT budgets for MiCASSA
Bob Kafka negotiates with Mark McClellan at the OMB
(WASHINGTON DC) ADAPT held strong in the streets of Washington DC and weathered a thunderstorm to persuade
Mitchell Daniels, Jr., the Director of the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work with ADAPT to end the bias of federal funding of institutions over community services.
ADAPT showed the energy, organization and skill of the direct-action group by blocking the front door to the OMB as well as simultaneously cutting off traffic at the two intersections in front of the New Executive Office Building at 725 17th Street. ADAPT activists circled the intersections of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue as well as 17th and H Street right in front of the Capitol Police.
The quick maneuver stopped traffic in a large portion of the downtown area as the traffic piled up in the adjacent avenues. With the substantial snarl of traffic outside, however, the OMB Director rejected the ADAPT demands and attempted to continue as usual.
ADAPT asked the OMB to meet with the group in an effort to put community services on an equal basis with institutional service by making the entitlement more flexible and allow the money to follow the individual.
"We also want the President's next budget to include funding for S. 1298 and H.R. 3612, known as MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community-based Attendant Services and Supports Act," said Alfredo Juarez, ADAPT El Paso. "And, lastly, we want the OMB to provide the funding necessary to strengthen the President's New Freedom Initiative, so it can be a promise kept, and not just a bunch of pretty words"
Mark McClellan, the Health Policy Director for the President came to the scene to negotiate with Director Daniels when it was clear that ADAPT would not move under the threat to be arrested and the looming thunderstorm.
“The cops threatened that we had to move or be arrested,” said Jennifer McPhail from Austin Texas who was blocking the front door to the OMB, “but that was three hours ago.”
Although the police said they would “clear the intersection,” it was clear that arresting one ADAPT advocate in the street would only make room for others to move in and continue to block the street.
“You feel like you are in a powerful position,” said Eric VonSmetteringling of Pennsylvania ADAPT. “It is very empowering like the forth of July, it is a great adrenaline rush. The cops, who like to be in control, look like: ‘what do I do now?’”
After about two hours of knotting traffic, thunder boomed over the OMB headquarters. A police officer came up to Bob Kafka and said that there was going to be a big storm and asked what ADAPT members were going to do. The police officers question implied that advocates exposed in the middle of the street might leave and find cover. Bob did not answer, he just looked around the crowd and saw advocates slipping into colorful raincoats and ponchos.
"I think the police really began to realize how important our freedom is to us," said Steve Verriden, ADAPT Wisconsin State Organizer. "When it started to rain, they were surprised that no one made any move to leave…we all just pulled on rain ponchos, shared umbrellas, taped plastic over the electric controls on our wheelchairs, and settled in for however long it was going take to get the meeting. We would have slept there if need be"
The letter from the OMB text
As the end of the workday approached and traffic around the OMB was still stagnate, Director Daniels suddenly, according to his letter, “gladly agreed” to meet with ADAPT.
“I think they took one look at ADAPT standing strong,” said Stephanie Thomas of Austin, “and suddenly the impossible was possible.”
Shona Eakin of Erie Pennsylvania read the letter of acceptance that ADAPT advocates had won with their street action. The OMB establishes the levels of funding in the President’s Budget and ADAPT is intent on securing the necessary funding for MiCASSA.
Many bystanders were impressed by the tactic of capturing two major intersections in traffic and under the noses of the police. In a matter of seconds, hundreds of ADAPT members took up positions and instantaneously became a blockade that could not be removed by the police.
“It was awesome,” said Shona. “I kept thinking going through the construction and traffic that nothing can stop us.”
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