In Twist, Some Disability Activists Get Reprieve
(Updated: May 22, 2012 at 2:24 PM CT)
In somewhat of an about-face, prosecutors backed off a requirement that all 74 disability activists arrested at a Capitol Hill protest last month appear in court.
The decision is the latest twist stemming from an April demonstration denouncing possible cuts to Medicaid that was organized by the disability rights group ADAPT.
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During the action 74 people — including many in wheelchairs — were detained after they refused to leave the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building.
Those arrested were stunned to learn last week that they would all be required to appear in D.C. Superior Court Tuesday or face the threat of a bench warrant. Many scrambled to make last-minute travel arrangements from all over the country in order to be present.
After the decision made news, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said they waived the appearance requirement for 60 of those arrested. Among those receiving a waiver was actor Noah Wyle who was detained during the April action.
Nonetheless, 14 protesters — hailing from as far away as Texas, Colorado and Michigan — were required to make the trip. Those present at the hearing Tuesday pled guilty to unlawful conduct. They were given six-months probation and ordered to pay a $50 fine. All of those arrested will be required to stay away from Capitol Hill for six months.
Traditionally, ADAPT members say they’ve been represented in court by an attorney. This marked the first time in the group’s 30-plus year history of conducting similar demonstrations that activists were required to return from across the country for a court hearing.
“The fact that the U.S. Attorney’s office has taken such extreme measures by trying to force every one of the 74 ADAPTers to travel back to D.C., and then twisting around at the last minute, says a lot about our government’s willingness to punish those making a stand for Medicaid which is a lifeline for millions of people across the country,” said Bruce Darling of Rochester, N.Y. who was among those arrested.