The SCLC calls for cooperation with the TennCare protest.
(NASHVILLE, June 27, 2005) "I am standing here and the members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) are standing here representing the national office, including Dr. Charles Steele, our national president, who is calling on the leaders of other chapters and civil rights organizations to join SCLC regarding this problem in Tennessee,” said Dr. Dwight Montgomery of the Memphis SCLC Chapter. “We cannot accept the fact that there are no alternatives because there are alternatives. All the steps have not been taken."
Activists have occupied Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s office since Monday, June 20, demanding that the governor stop disqualifying Medicaid enrollees and have an open public hearing on TennCare. Demonstrators spent the weekend in the governor’s office, sleeping on the floor unable to get food, water or blankets from allies holding vigil outside the locked public building.
“I remember April eighth when we delivered to this office a ten-point plan, developed by experts who know about health care, and we asked for a speedy response from the Governor. The plan called for the State to save $649 million and allow qualified TennCare recipients to stay," recalled Dr. Montgomery. “The Governor has never considered what we presented on April eighth.”
There has been a constant peaceful, non-violent occupation of Bredesen’s office, day and night, for a week. Members of the SCLC brought pillows to the protesters; however, security at the state building would only allow travel pillows and limited supplies of food and water.
“Dwight Montgomery and the SCLC came by at noon,” said Randy Alexander of Tennessee ADAPT, “they were a huge shot in the arm and really helped make things happen. We are now planning to add to our strategy, not change it.”
Gov. Bredesen left the state over the weekend to hype his healthcare draft. He gave speeches in Washington DC painting his untried proposal as accomplishment. The governor has proposed eliminating the healthcare for over 300 thousand people in an effort to save the state money, but because Tennessee gets a federal match for the state Medicaid program, the governor’s plan results in hundreds of millions of dollars less for the healthcare of Tennessee citizens.
“The governor has never explained his plan to the people of Tennessee,” said Randy Alexander. “Bredesen always says he wants to ‘hear about options,’ but he doesn’t really mean to do anything but push his own agenda. He is hoping to get a big political bounce next year when he gives back some the programs he is taking away now.”
Monday night Alexander was expecting a dozen activists to stay overnight in the governor’s office. More people join the nightly vigil that is held outside the building after it is locked for the evening around 6:00 pm.
- Tim Wheat