Health care protesters stage sit-ins, demonstrations at Senate offices; 40 arrested

At least some of the health care protesters were Toomey's constituents demanding inclusion in healthcare debate Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

WASHINGTON - More than 100 protesters from around the country were on Capitol Hill on Wednesday staging sit-ins and demonstrations in a half dozen Senate offices to show their disapproval for the Republican health care plan.

Capitol Police confirmed the arrested 40 people "who refused to cease and desist were placed under arrest, and charged with D.C. Code §22-1307, Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding."

"After officers arrived on the scene, they warned the demonstrators to cease and desist with their unlawful demonstration activities."

Activists told Sinclair Broadcast Group that they targeted the offices of Senators Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Cory Gardner (R-Col.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

The demonstrations will continue all day. Additional protests are planned for Thursday.

Senator Portman announced his opposition to the bill on Tuesday after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the bill which was scheduled for a vote before the July 4 recess. Sen. Murkowski said she would not support the bill in its current form after it was released last week.

As many as ten protesters were arrested outside of Toomey's office, a number were constituents who traveled to Washington from Pennsylvania for the demonstration. They were handcuffed with zip-ties and dragged away by Capitol Police chanting "Kill the bill, don't kill me!"

Groups including Occupy Democracy, Housing Works, and the Center for Popular Democracy helped organize the demonstrations and had a legal team on the scene to handle the arrests. An activist from Pennsylvania noted, "We're prepared for this."

Outside Sen. Marco Rubio's office a group of more than a dozen chanted, "Health care is a human right!" and carried signs that said "Trump-Care = Death."

A number of constituents led chants including a health care navigator from Miami, and a student who relies on Medicaid.

Inside Sen. Rob Portman's (R- Ohio) office, people had a sit-in and chanted, "don't save money for millionaires."

A registered nurse from Ohio made an emotional appeal, saying that if the GOP plan enacts cuts to Medicaid she will be the one to explain to patients that they cannot access treatment.

Some traveled as far as Alaska for the protest, arriving at the Capitol early in the morning.

Carrie Fowler of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania explained that the activists were going to keep up the pressure on the Senate even though McConnell decided to postpone the vote until after the Fourth of July recess.

"That gives them another week to do backroom deals," Fowler said. "So its important to keep the pressure on them at all times."

Senators are expected to rework the health care plan over the July 4 recess to garner the 50 votes needed to pass the bill. Five senators voiced their opposition to the bill after it was released last week. An additional four senators voiced their opposition to the plan after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released its analysis. The CBO estimated that 22 million fewer people could have health care insurance by 2026 and $772 billion could be cut from Medicaid by that time.

The protests follow a similar tone displayed Thursday after the GOP revealed their plan to repeal Obamacare.

Dozens of people, many of whom were in wheelchairs, were escorted from the premises on Capitol Hill.

Some people - who left their wheelchairs - were dragged away.

A vote on the bill was tabled till after the 4th of July holiday.

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