Back in June of 2017, a group of protesters with disabilities from the group ADAPT, which has pushed for better conditions for the disabled in public accommodation and transportation for decades, occupied Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver offices to call attention to cuts to vital Medicaid programs threatened under the repeal of the Affordable Care Act then being considered.
The photos you can see in the Getty Images slideshow above are of Dawn Russell, a member of ADAPT who was forcibly removed from Sen. Gardner’s Denver office by Denver Police during ADAPT’s June 2017 protest. These images of wheelchair-bound protesters being cuffed and physically hauled away from Gardner’s office shocked the conscience, and made global news at the time of the arrests–and contributed to nationwide outrage that helped end the Republican drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Fast-forward to last Friday’s fundraiser, hosted by Gardner at the Brown Palace in Denver:
And there in the center of this photo is the same Dawn Russell, looking a hell of a lot happier! We don’t yet know all the details, but this group of ADAPT activists appears to have made it past the Brown Palace’s famously tight security for VIP events Friday evening–and instead of being met by police, Gardner himself came out to smile for a photo.
If Gardner or his staff had had the presence of mind to respond to ADAPT with compassion last year, none of those politically nightmarish photos of wheelchair-bound protesters being hauled out of his office by police would have ever been taken. There’s nothing Gardner can do to undo the damage to his reputation from the long failed fight to “repeal Obamacare,” but he can rest easy in the knowledge that at least he didn’t make it any worse by having more protesters in wheelchairs arrested.
As for ADAPT, you’ve got to call these before-and-after photos a win. These folks were making waves when Cory Gardner was a kid, and they’ll be around when Gardner is long gone.