Disability Rights Activists Are Even Invisible Getting Arrested on Capitol Hill

Elite media’s selective disdain for public activism is well known. Still, you’d think some things would garner a word or two. Like 300 disability rights activists, a couple hundred in wheelchairs, occupying the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The May 2 demonstration was organized by the rights group ADAPT to protest Republican budget plans for Medicaid. Ninety-one people were arrested and carted off by Capitol police.

Yet days after the rotunda protest, and another action the next day in which 300 demonstrators gathered outside the Longworth House Office Building, many getting inside to Rep. Paul Ryan’s second floor office where 10 were arrested, the country’s big media have taken no notice. Accounts in Politico (5/2/11) and the Hill (5/3/11) were all a search turned up.

ADAPT organizer Mike Ervin explained that it’s not just the roughly 35 percent funding cuts to Medicaid in the GOP’s budget proposal that concern the disability community, but the plan to convert states’ federal shares into block grants. Many people with disabilities rely on Medicaid ‘for the assistance we get every day to live in our communities,” rather than institutions.

As for the claim, from Ryan’s Roadmap Plan, that block granting “allows states maximum flexibility to tailor their Medicaid programs to the specific needs of their populations,” Ervin says, “That’s like saying Jim Crow laws give states more flexibility to decide who gets to drink at their water fountains. Flexibility is basically a code word for abandonment.”

People with disabilities (one community that anyone can join at any moment) and their advocates are right to worry their concerns won’t be heard by lawmakers, to the extent that that involves dealing with a press corps that, evidently, can’t even see them.

About Janine Jackson

Program Director and Co-producer of CounterSpin
Janine Jackson is FAIR's program director and and producer/co-host of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. She contributes frequently to FAIR's magazine, Extra! and co-edited The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s (Westview Press). She has appeared on ABC's Nightline and CNN Headline News, among other outlets, and has testified to the Senate Communications Subcommittee on budget reauthorization for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Her articles have appeared in various publications, including In These Times and the UAW’s Solidarity, and in books including Civil Rights Since 1787 (New York University Press) and Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism (New World Library). Jackson is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and has an M.A. in sociology from the New School for Social Research.