UPDATE: Denver7’s Blair Miller, still going strong after 24 hours:
The protesters first took up residence in Gardner’s Denver office Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Senate Republicans decided not to try and vote on the Senate’s version of the bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.
The office is in a large office building that also houses several other businesses. Police showed up to the office Tuesday evening for several hours, but never removed any of the protesters, who ended up staying overnight and remained there Wednesday afternoon.
KDVR FOX 31 reporting, a situation developing inside Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver offices:
A group of protesters spent the night in the lobby of Sen. Cory Gardner’s office in Denver on Tuesday…
They want Gardner to vote against the proposed federal health care bill, saying they believe it will cut Medicaid benefits to individuals who need them to survive independently.
“They depend on these services to be able to live in the community independently, and have jobs and be productive members of society, go to school. Families do all the things that we get to do and we don’t have to fight like this,” Hope Morris said.
The protest quickly turned into a sit-in after participants were reportedly denied access to the senator’s office.
“Police shut down the elevators, the fire department shut down the fire stairs,” Jose Torres-Vega said.
“They came in about 4 o’clock this afternoon and said they were going to start arresting folks,” Morris said.
Although police threatened the protesters, many of whom use power wheelchairs or have other disabilities, in the end they were not arrested. This appears to be a deliberate choice made by Sen. Gardner, looking to avoid the horrible scene outside Sen. Mitch McConnell’s offices last week as protesters with disabilities were dragged away by U.S. Capitol police:
“We have not asked for anyone to be removed from the office,” a Gardner spokesman said. “Sen. Gardner wants the constituents that were in his office today to have quality health care. He has concerns that our current system is imploding and won’t be able to provide quality care if nothing is done to fix it.”
As of this writing, the protesters remain camped out inside Gardner’s Denver offices. There are conflicting reports about whether they have access to such basic accommodation as bathrooms, though they reportedly did have access to them last night. The protesters are with a group called ADAPT, a disability rights organization with a decades-long presence in the Denver activist community. The protesters report via livestream that they are in good spirits, and for the moment well-supplied with food and other essentials coming from supporters outside. A public rally outside the building is set for 11AM today, and the situation is quickly accumulating media coverage.
We’ll be watching closely to see how this resolves–the protest began before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called off the vote on the Senate’s Obamacare repeal bill, so there’s no predictable stopping point. Gardner is smart to refrain from ordering their arrest, but there’s nothing about this that adds up to good news for him.
It’s just another symptom of an unfolding political disaster.