The Free Our People March Enters Delaware.
(WILMINGTON, DE) The ADAPT March crossed into Delaware today getting 16.3 miles closer to Congress. Mike Oxford who is heading up the mobile physical plant that is recharging and repairing the wheelchairs in the march was estimating that about 20 percent of the power chairs just couldn’t make the 16 miles. Mike is also coordinating the vans that are retrieving those with mechanical problems or dead batteries.
“Yesterday, many of the power chairs had difficulty with the rain,” said Mike, “more than 15 people had to be picked-up along the road.”
Today, the longest day of the march, over 40 of the power chairs ran out of juice. People used their last bit of power or were pushed by fellow marchers onto the sidewalk to wait for a ride to the camp.
Those with strong batteries pushed the March forward making it difficult for one marcher to keep up. Adam Nielsen of Boulder Colorado is determined to march the entire distance. Adam uses forearm crutches and typically has no trouble keeping pace with the march, but with the extra long distances today he fell behind creating a gap that the Delaware State Police said was not acceptable.
Everyone on the march was tired and there was a lot of pressure on Adam to get a ride from the trailing van. But Adam continually refused the ride and pushed on. The marchers saw how Adam had accepted the challenge and refused to give up. The pressure to get into the van collapsed and the ADAPT Community around Adam adopted his pace and everyone, though tired, dehydrated and scorched, joined him in his effort.
Soon Adam was out front, leading the march. The pace picked up and the ADAPT Community was sharing in the personal dedication to accomplishment of Adam. Adam led the entire final mile and found a large group of cheering supporters, waiting as he turned into the parking lot that had become the Free Our People camp.
Arriving at the camp was a really great feeling. Everyone enjoyed a heightened sense of accomplishment, especially on a day that had so much frustration. The point is not that Adam was a hero or achieved some superhuman goal; but, that this march is about people. Watching the dedication of Adam and having everyone share his feeling of triumph emphasized that the march is not about ability or disability, rather it is about community.
The day got started at 9 am as the march left the Glenolden First Presbyterian Church in a very straight line. The crew remaining at the church had the camp packed up and loaded by 10 am. The next order of business was to set up the camp at tonight’s site, but there was a 2 hour delay finding the place.
“We are still disorganized,” said Kay Fox of Utah who is heading up the food preparation. “Things are better than I thought given we have never done anything like this before. Like yesterday, we didn’t know they were not bringing drinks, we had to run around and fill in the gaps.”
After 11 am the March passed through the remainder of Pennsylvania without a police escort. Nancy Salandra asks us to take up the whole lane to lower the temptation of drivers to pass the march. ADAPT members filled in where the police had been blocking streets to keep the march moving. Chants and songs came easier to the marchers because everyone was closer to one another. The mass, not in a single-file line, moved like “the blob,” with no discernable head but with clear direction.
Along the route the march passed more than one ramp that came about because of the Anderson case. Because a change in the funding structure of the Pennsylvania Welfare Department program, advocates argued that the new program would have to be accessible under the ADA and it would apply to all providers in the program. Philadelphia activists were able to demand physical access in about 4000 physician’s and dentist’s offices. To hold the providers liable under Title III would mean about 4000 individual lawsuits.
Barry Rosenberg relaxes for lunch.
At 12:40 the March made it to the lunch site at the Chester Memorial Park. Lunch today was a sandwich, apple, chips and a cookie. ADAPT was able to lay in the shade of a large tree to eat lunch, rest and relax. The march moved on after the one-hour break.
Crossing into Delaware was generally uneventful, except that the State Police joined us to give
an escort the rest of the day. There was only an aging sign that told marchers that Delaware was the First State.
The day ended in a parking lot where the tents were all set up and Generator already charging wheelchairs for tomorrow. ADAPT ate dinner together and rested. At 7:45 everyone met together for a debriefing of the day and information for tomorrow. At the camp meeting Weasel explained about the laundry plan: “We need to start with people that need their clothes cleaned the most.”
“Are we going to vote on that?” came a question from the back of the crowd that brought on a wave of laughter.
- Tim Wheat
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