A Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act suffered a major blow today, as House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the legislation from consideration because of a lack of votes.
That was exactly the outcome Erin Kramer and Angel Gober were hoping for when they got arrested in front of the White House on Thursday.
The Pittsburgh-based organizers traveled from Philadelphia to D.C. by bus Thursday with more than 50 other people to protest Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump’s healthcare legislation.
“Civil disobedience is an interesting thing, and it’s not something that we do lightly,” Kramer said. “Taking an arrest, I think, draws a very fine line under what people are willing to do to call attention to what exactly is at stake here.”
Kramer is executive director of One Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh-based social justice and activism organization, and Gober is an organizer with the group. They were two of 24 activists arrested by U.S. Park Police on the sidewalk in front of the White House after being told to move.
Those 24 people represented the 24 million additional people who would be uninsured by 2026 under the GOP’s American Health Care Act. The Huffington Post reported from D.C.:
Hundreds of activists assembled in LaFayette Square Park a short distance across from them and cheered each time another person was arrested. Throughout the process, the arrestees and their supporters sang progressive folk songs, including “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “Which Side Are You On.”
The arrests followed a day of demonstrations in the city to show support for keeping and repairing the Affordable Care Act, rather than implementing a bill that would take a lifeline away from millions of Americans, Kramer said.
“We spent the afternoon with the law enforcement community, but that was definitely worth it to be clear about what’s at stake,” Kramer said. She and other activists forfeited bond money and were released without charges or a claim of guilt, she said.
Today’s vote cancellation was a major victory for Democrats and progressive activists, but as Kramer pointed out it’s just “the first round.”
“The Trump administration … [and Republican majority] are going to try to undue a lot of the progress that we’ve done in this country, not just over the last eight years but over the last couple of generations,” she said. “We’ve built a set of structures. They’re not perfect, but they take care of people — They take care of folks with disabilities. They take care of children. They take care of young mothers. — because we have a shared interested in people being able to live full, human lives.”
Republican and some Democratic state legislators in Pennsylvania are similarly attempting to roll back progressive values by punishing so-called sanctuary cities and instituting a 20-week abortion ban that doctors say comes between medical professionals and patients.
Back in Pittsburgh, One Pennsylvania is supporting a Fight for $15 action planned for April 4 (the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination) at Freedom Corner and is planning a town hall around water. The group is also hosting a community meeting tomorrow to “celebrate this victory but also talk about what’s up next,” Kramer said.
What’s up next may feel like an overwhelming thought to people who don’t support the Trump administration’s vision for the country, she said. For people feeling overwhelmed, Kramer suggests “finding an organization that’s not just about clicking or calling or giving, but [one where] you can also be with people, learn something from each other, do things together and give — giving your time, giving your space, giving your money — so in that way we’re rebuilding our democracy and communities together.”
And for One Pennsylvania’s community, that means keeping Republicans from repealing the ACA.
“We’re gonna have to stop them and hold them accountable by reminding them of the actual … lives that are at stake here,” Kramer said, “and by heading to the ballot box two years from now.”