The severity of the budget cuts is not questioned. Frankly, the severity of the response has not been proportionate, but it’s starting to get closer.

In protest of the proposed budget cuts to health and human services, over a dozen Californians with disabilities were arrested this evening after they and many others blocked the hallway in front of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office for over 7 hours.

It was inspiring. We at Health Access followed it on our Twitter feed at @healthaccess, which got picked up by prominent blogs like Calitics and print media like the Sacramento Bee. It also got on local television news broadcasts, like KCRA and KSBW and News 10. (The top picture is credited to David Bienick of KCRA; the second to News10.)

The protest started around noon with over 100, and lasted until 7pm, when the State Capitol building closed, and the California Highway Patrol dispersed them out of the building, with an arrest-and-release citations for 15 of the three dozen that were left.

The CHP has threatened earlier in the day to take the protestors to county jail, but some of the protestors responded that they rather would go to jail than a nursing home–their only alternative if they lost IHSS home care services. The police probably thought twice about that–some of the protestors would have required significant attention in jail–after all, they were folks who need home care to be self-sufficient. So taking any of these folks into custody would have meant taking care of them in a significant way.

The CHP actually were accomodating to the protestors, steering hallway traffic away from the hallway blocked by wheelchairs–where the protestors yelled “hold the line” if an unwitting Capitol staffer attempted to cross. The protestors were prepared, with food and blankets, to stay much longer.

The citations were different for the various protestors, for a mix of charges: demonstrating without a permit, disrupting state business, refusing to leave a closed state building.

We were happy to see disability community leaders like Frances Gracechild, head of Resources for Independent Living in Sacramento, and a former chair of Health Access California board. But there were also other leaders from around the state, and just grassroots folks outraged by the current budget situation and stalemate.

Several legislators came down to talk to them and cheer them on. Sen. Romero, Steinberg, Cedillo, and Assemblymembers Beall, Skinner, and Perez all were reported to have spoken with the crowd. (Perez actually ordered the protestors pizza for dinner.) The crowd had asked to see Governor Schwarzenegger for over a month, and refused meetings with underlings.

The Governor went about his day, including having lunch at the fancy restaurant Mason’s.

The day was inspiring for the rest of us, that we have more work to do to spotlight the real human, financial, health, and other impacts of these cuts, and to make clear that our policymakers have choices, and right now, they are making wrong ones.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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