Thursday, July 9, 2009

Disabled activists protest budget threats

By Judy Greenspan
San Francisco

Published Jul 3, 2009 10:29 PM

Chanting “They say cut back, we say fight back!” over 400 disabled activists and their supporters took over the street in front of the State Office Building in San Francisco June 23 to “Stop the governor from slashing programs for people with disabilities, kids, and poor people.” Seventeen people both in and out of wheelchairs were arrested in a civil disobedience action.

WW photo: Judy Greenspan

The demonstration was called a “People’s Day of Reckoning” and coincided with the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, which stated that people with disabilities have a right to live in the community, not just in nursing homes. The action was organized by a diverse group of disabled people, seniors, single-payer health care advocates, union members and others.

Not only did the action target the anti-people budget currently being proposed by legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it specifically exposed the inhumane cuts aimed at disabled people in California. Under Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal, disabled people would lose their independence without attendants and aid and be forced into institutions and nursing homes.

Speaker after speaker challenged everyone to fight against the “cuts-only” budget and to support the rights of people with disabilities. A large group went into the streets and held a die-in during the protest. Jean Stewart, a long-time disabled writer and activist, addressed the crowd from the street before she was arrested: “The governor is doing this deliberately. He is saying ‘screw the people.’ We should be shutting down this country.”

Several other rallies were held around the state by the People’s Day of Reckoning Coalition which said loudly and clearly, “The state budget is killing us!”

Greenspan was arrested as part of the civil disobedience action.

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