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Shock As Noah Wyle, Disability Advocates Ordered To Court

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(Updated: May 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM CT)

More than 70 disability advocates arrested last month during a Medicaid protest at the U.S. Capitol are being forced to return to Washington to appear in court.

In what the disability rights group ADAPT is calling an unprecedented event in their over 30-year history, members of the organization are being threatened with bench warrants if they do not appear in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday.

Last month, 74 people — many in wheelchairs — were arrested on charges of unlawful conduct after they refused to disband a protest in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building. The group organized by ADAPT was there to oppose cuts to Medicaid.

Actor Noah Wyle who is best known for appearing on NBC’s “ER” is a vocal advocate for universal health care and was among those detained in the April protest.

Though ADAPT regularly holds protests where arrests are commonplace, leaders of the group say they are typically represented in court by an attorney and are not required to be present. This time, however, prosecutors are insisting that all of those arrested appear in person at the hearing.

The requirement is leading to a mad scramble since several of those arrested live as far away as Colorado and Utah. Traveling back to Washington on short notice is costing some involved $1,000 or more.

“I’m shocked and angry,” said Marsha Katz, a member of ADAPT who lives in Missoula, Mont. She plans to make the return trip to Washington in order to assist her husband, Bob Liston, who uses a wheelchair and was among those arrested during the April action.

“This is the first time in more than 20 years that the court wouldn’t allow an attorney to represent us and wouldn’t entertain a motion to postpone,” said Katz. “Are they doing this to dissuade us from exercising our First Amendment rights?”

Officials at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said they are simply following protocol.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is sensitive to the concerns raised by the defendants. However, the office typically requires defendants to appear in court for their arraignments and is following that practice in this matter,” said William Miller, a spokesman for the office.

So far, 53 of those arrested have made plans to travel back to Washington next week, according to Rahnee Patrick, an ADAPT leader from Chicago who’s helping to arrange the court appearance. But she says that for ADAPT members relying on Social Security income alone, the sheer cost of making the trip means appearing in court will be prohibitive.

As for Wyle, Patrick said it wasn’t yet clear when he would appear in court.

Patrick declined to speculate on the motives behind the mandated court showing, but did say that the organization’s attorney indicated that prosecutors were “very, very familiar with ADAPT.”

Regardless, Patrick said she did not believe that future protests would be impacted.

“These cuts are personal,” Patrick said of ADAPT’s recent opposition to Medicaid changes. “It hasn’t been easy, but our people are willing to make the sacrifice because we understand that people’s lives are at stake.”

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Comments (12 Responses)

  1. Sue Keller says:

    Are we seeing equal opportunity fascism now? Should we construe this as NDAA, part 2?

    ADAPT needs to get the media on this: New York Times, CNN, Anderson Cooper; and put it out to all the disability advocacy groups on social media on FB, Twitter, etc.

    ADAPT members being forced to appear need to contact their Senators and Congressmen and state delegates and ask for support.

    Fight now while you can. The government is playing hardball. Our rights are disappearing so quickly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they erect a memorial to Joe McCarthy on the Mall in Washington……

  2. Adam Farris says:

    Why does the us gov. Have to deal with something this small in nature? Don’t they have anything better to?

  3. Eric c says:

    Why has this not been on any tv news or even any mainstream newspaper???

    How can we get it better publicized?

  4. dennice hartkop says:

    The prosecutor is maintaining they always require personal appearance. Hasn’t some sharp lawyer actually investigated this claim? If the prosecutor is overstating or just lying, that should be cause for some type of suit against the prosecutors office.

  5. Mark Johnson says:

    I was arrested at this Action and will be in court Tuesday. As mentioned in your article, this is a first. So why now? Follow the money. Certain people benefit from the status quo, others don’t care. Contact Congressman Ryan’s office, http://paulryan.house.gov/Contact/ , shame on him, his proposed budget, cuts to Medicaid and don’t recognize Medicaid as an investment and LTSS as the future.

  6. Mrs. Eileen G. Curras widow To Hernabdez,WWII says:

    I have seen this attitude to order Disability Advocates to Court is nothing new to me. Fear or Controls attitudes are used at Puerto Rico constantly bur consumers do not have resources. Here they have a newspaper. I agree with the comment that these cuts are personal. It has not been easy. It is necessary to make the sacrifice because people’s lives are at stake.

  7. ann masotti says:

    I urge someone among the group of protesters to issue a petition on CHANGE.ORG….you will gather thousands of signatures to protest this unconsciable abuse toward all advocates and caretakers alike….post the link on facebook and there will be a deluge of supporters and the necessary press as well.

    Good luck.

    Ann Masotti

  8. Linda says:

    Of course they are doing this to dissuade people from exercising their First Amendment rights. Our Constitution is becoming a joke because the courts are using loopholes to smash it’s intent. I have a word for those people but it wouldn’t be appropriate on this forum!

  9. Mary Sherman says:

    I surely don’t believe that the courts do understand the ADAPT movement but Civil Rights are Civil Rights, They belong to all peoples no matte what ethnicity you are or capabilities. I stand behind the ADAPT movement.!!!!

  10. Debbie Thompson says:

    Bullying the disabled. They must be so proud of themselves (sarcasm).

  11. Jack Daly says:

    Knowing there will be continued cuts to Medicaid funding, I expect we will see more use of heavyhanded tactics such as this – in an attempt to dissuade others from voicing their viewpoint in any manner that might impact ‘business as usual’.

  12. Jamar Cherry says:

    I feel that it’s wrong that people with physical disability being treated like this. It doesn’t make sense to me. The gov. is just like misery meaning they enjoy their company making people who has a disability feel miserable. I must say they are very stubborn & insecure about themselves when they treat people with disability like this. It makes me upset. If i had my way I want to become a leader for the people with disability who is struggling out there for their rights.

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