22 disability protestors arrested outside Capitol

SACRAMENTO, CA – Twenty-two people, many of them severely disabled, were arrested at a protest outside the Capitol building on Wednesday afternoon.

According to organizers, somewhere between 250 and 300 people were participating in a planned 1 p.m. protest against budget cuts affecting disabled people. The group left the Capitol and was marching in the vicinity when a group stopped in the middle of L Street, blocking traffic for about an hour. The event was planned by the Health and Human Services Network of CA, a coalition of several groups pushing for healthcare reform and disability rights.

“It was a spontaneous action,” said Stella Kim, a policy and communications specialist with the California Partnership, one of the groups participating in the event. “These are people who wanted to make their voices heard. For these people, it’s a life and death issue.”

Over 100 police with different agencies eventually responded to the scene. According to Konrad von Schoech, a public information officer with the Sacramento Police Department, the people who stopped in the middle of the intersection were ordered three times to disperse. Some of them did, and then the police arrested the 22 who stayed. Of these, he said, 20 were going to be cited and released. Two others were likely to remain in custody due to “extenuating circumstances,” including one person who reportedly resisted arrest.

According to Laura Peck, also with the Sacramento Police, many officers were pulled away from other duties. The reason so officers were needed because of the “very intensive and time consuming” process of making so many arrests and filing the proper reports.

In what became a kind of political theater, police wrote out many of these reports on a mobile gurney that protestors had brought as a prop. Other officers loaded a nine-foot high paper mache caricature of the governor holding an ax onto the back of a police truck.

“No comment,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, when asked if the arrests were planned ahead of time. His group, which advocates for health care reform, is part of the Network that organized the protest. “I will say that there were people arrested who weren’t planning to be.”

According to a pamphlet distributed by organizers, the protest was opposing numerous cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, including a 50 percent cut to state funding for In Home Supportive Services for the disabled, a $750 million cut to Medi-Cal, and the total elimination of state funding for child care, the CalWORKS welfare-to-work program, Adult Day Health Care, and mental health rehabilitation programs. 

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