Nearly a dozen demonstrators, many of them disabled and in wheelchairs, were released from a Denver jail early Saturday morning after they were arrested for occupying the office of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner for 58 hours. Police arrested 10 of them Thursday after receiving a signed complaint from Gardner’s office, according to media reports that cited police.
After their release, the protesters told media they will return to Gardner’s office. On Friday, supporters held a vigil outside a justice center. “According to Cory Gardner, the First Amendment only applies to two-and-a-half days,” said Josh Winkler, 36, from a wheelchair outside. A quadriplegic from Aurora, Winkler is a part of ADAPT, a Denver-based national advocacy group that organized the sit-in.
In downtown Denver on the Friday before the July 4 holiday, supporters waved signs reading “Our Homes Not Nursing Homes,” and “Save Our Medicaid.” Carrie Ann Lucas, one of the demonstrators who was arrested — she was not jailed because of health reasons— said she was hit with a separate charge, something about interfering with an officer, because she did not operate her wheelchair when police asked.
Lucas said it was ironic she stayed out of jail because the detention center should have been able to accommodate her even if she had a ventilator. “I should be getting to sit with my fellow activists,” she told The Colorado Independent. Jose Torres-Vega, who suffers from a musculoskeletal disease, said he worries if the healthcare bill passes more disabled Americans on Medicaid will end up in nursing homes or other institutions. “Aren’t we supposed to be allowed equality and equity?” he said. “You want us to be of service to you? Of society? Let us.”
A new set of numbers released by the Urban Institute show just how big an impact the Better Care Reconciliation Act, aka Trumpcare, would have on Coloradans. The figures, which come from the Washington, D.C.-based Institute, show 575,000 Coloradans would lose health care coverage in Colorado under Trumpcare by 2022. That’s an increase, according to the Institute, of 134 percent over the existing uninsured population.
The Institute’s report, issued June 30, stated 387,000 adult Coloradans, or about 11.5 percent of the state’s population, lack health insurance under the current system, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. That number would zoom to 858,000, a population that includes both adults on private insurance and those on Medicaid. The hit to Colorado’s federal funding for Medicaid would be nearly $4 billion, almost certainly another smack to Colorado hospitals— especially rural ones. There are 14 states that would be hit hard by Trumpcare and that also have at least one Republican senator, according to Bill Galston of the Brookings Institute. That includes Colorado, home to Republican Cory Gardner who is one of 13 U.S. senators tasked with coming up with the Senate’s version of Trumpcare. Colorado ranks fourth out of those 14 states for the number of people who would lose their health insurance under the new proposed GOP plan.
Marvin Booker, a Denver street preacher, died seven years ago this month at the hands of officers in a Denver jail. On July 9, 2010, the 56-year-old Booker was arrested on an outstanding warrant for drug possession. As he waited in the booking area he took his shoes off. When his name was finally called, he walked sock-footed to the booking desk. But when he turned back to pick up his shoes, things went awry.
A deputy grabbed him. He swung his arms and resisted. Officers wrestled him to the ground and put him in a sleeper hold. Then, Sergeant Carrie Rodriguez shocked him with a taser. Moments later, he was dead. Now, seven years later, serious questions linger about the authenticity of the homicide weapon— a Taser— that the city and county of Denver produced as evidence in one of its most notorious excessive force cases. For its weekly podcast, Colorado Independent editor Susan Greene talked about the latest in a case she has covered for close to a decade. “Essentially, the Taser used as evidence was deployed after Marvin died, and that’s pretty fishy,” Greene said.
Denver has a new district attorney, Beth McCann. McCann told The Colorado Independent that she will look into Booker family’s request for an investigation, but that her “inclination would be not to reopen” a cased closed by her predecessor. Police were not charged in Booker’s death, but his family won a six million dollar civil verdict in 2014 against the city.
The Indy is also holding a public conversation about the case on July 10 at 7 p.m. at the Denver Open Media Foundation, which will be televised before a live studio audience. Listen to more of what Greene has to say about this story, and find details about the event, at coloradoindependent.com.