Supporters of Obama’s health-care plan on Tuesday staged a last-ditch protest in Washington to buoy the bill limping through Congress, targeting their anger at health insurance CEOs who were meeting at D.C.’s Ritz Carlton for America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) national policy conference.
Health Care for America Now (HCAN) aimed to get two dozen preselected volunteers arrested, but the effort fell flat as police told The Daily Caller no one was hauled away in handcuffs.
Still, more than 1,000 protesters listened as Howard Dean, surrounded by labor leaders and organizers from groups including the NAACP, SEIU, AFL-CIO, and Moveon.org, kicked off the show with a rousing speech in Dupont Circle. From there the protesters marched down New Hampshire Avenue.
“I think they should just shove it through and f*** the Republicans,” said protester Dana Dallabetta, a 54-year-old breast-cancer survivor from New York City who said she lost her health insurance after missing one payment on her COBRA plan. “I think the senators and the congressmen will see today the public is behind them, that they shouldn’t be scared.”
In a statement HCAN said its mission was to, “hold the greedy and abusive health insurance industry accountable for its actions,” and take “direct action,” against companies that lobbied to have the public option taken off the table. Getting arrested was supposed to drive home the point to Congress that the public wanted health insurance passed now.
Protesters rushed the Ritz Carlton, calling for the heads of health-care executives. “The criminals are inside!” yelled the agitated crowd, waving “wanted” posters bearing images of the CEOs. They covered the front of the building in crime scene tape as Metro police stood shoulder-to-shoulder warily eying those chanting, “Hey-Hey, Ho-Ho, insurance companies have got to go!”
“This is like the good old days,” said one attendee who lamented that two previous protests this year were small, ineffective affairs. “This is great.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka rallied the crowd, as did SEIU’s Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. They asked people to raise their right hands, and “deputized” them, urging them to rush the Ritz Carlton and conduct “citizens arrests” on the CEOs inside.
The police escorted off several protesters who repeatedly tried to cross their barricade, but in the end admitted that no one was arrested and the entire thing was pre-arranged.
“Republicans are hypocrites. Where were all these people screaming about the deficit when we went into Iraq? It’s all those talking heads on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh who are feeding these people. Republicans don’t want to hear that Clinton handed him a balanced budget, they don’t want to listen to logic, they just listen to talking heads on Fox News, its hard to have a really intelligent conversation with a Republican,”said Dallabetta.
“If Republicans really cared about their children, they would all be vegans,” she continued. “I don’t believe its going to add to the deficit, if it’s handled right. Obama has plans to cut down on fraud and defensive medicine. It seems to work in other countries, like Canada.”
Dallabetta went on to explain why she thought Republicans were obstructionists. “I have an aunt in Oklahoma who hates Obama. At bottom she’s a bigot, very racist … and I think that’s the case for a lot of Republicans. I know they use the ‘n’ word around their dinner table all the time. They’re not going to say it outside their house but that’s really what’s going on behind closed doors.”
“I personally am more mad at the White House,” said Tighe Barry, an activist for Code Pink, a women’s movement whose members have a history of being arrested at protests. “I see the reps as being weak — they should have taken the lead from the president and they didn’t.”
“The bill is so weak now,” he lamented, “I don’t now where our president is getting his information but I think he’s doing the wrong thing.”
Bob Finkelstein, who wore an “Insurance Abuse Survivor” ribbon and had planned to get arrested, said he thought it was stupid to tax Cadillac plans like union health-care plans because he says, “Unions negotiated for those increased benefits and gave up pay raises in return,” — and he points out they are a core Democratic constituency. “I think it’s much more palatable to tax people making over $250,000,” said the 42-year-old freelance writer and activist. “People who make a lot of money should pay their fair share.”
“I want to be free to have health care!” exclaimed Joanna Durham, a resident of North Carolina, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, who led a small group in a chant of “Health care is a human right.”
“We are Americans and we are free to have health care!” She said she believes Americans deserved “free” care, like people in other countries receive. “Are we not in America? We have free speech, free press, we need free health care now! Right now!”
Contact Aleksandra at: ak[at]dailycaller[dot]com.