Four people protesting Republican health care policies were arrested Wednesday outside the offices of U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts of Kansas after continuing to sit and chant in Senate hallways.
“Healthcare is a human right, not just for the rich and white,” yelled Kansas State University professor Brandon Irwin, as police placed him in handcuffs and escorted him away from Roberts’ office, which was locked upon the group’s arrival.
Irwin traveled to Washington with K-State adjunct professor Jess Kerr and student Nate Faflick, later teaming up with other demonstrators from Maine for the protest. The group also visited the office of Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.
Moran, a Republican, announced Monday night that he would not support Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, but he said he does support repeal without replacement. Roberts, also a Republican, was a supporter of the GOP bill. Collins has said she wouldn’t support the bill, which now does not have enough votes to even bring it to debate.
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Roberts and Moran did not make appearances during the protests. Moran was in his office and in a meeting, and Roberts’ door was locked by staffers before the protesters arrived, and the senators’ aides would not open it back up.
“The people of Kansas are very disappointed in you, Senator Moran,” said Pam Darpel, a nurse who works in Overland Park and is a member of National Nurses United. “On behalf of registered nurses from the state of Kansas, I say enough is enough.”
Before heading to the Capitol, organizers and participants met at nearby St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for civil disobedience training. Leaders gave directions about getting arrested. Protesters scribbled phone numbers of legal counsel on their arms while hearing songs of solidarity and shared stories.
“What do we want?” the group chanted, practicing for the protests.
“When do we want it?”
“We’re coming together, not just against something, but also for something else,” Kerr said. “And that’s universal health care.”
Faflick, who grew up in Wichita, said traveling to Washington was crucial to show his support for universal health care and tell his senators why they need to say no to an Obamacare repeal.
“I want to be part of the political revolution, and I want to stand for all people and the basic human right that all people deserve access to affordable health care,” he said. “Civil disobedience is a very visual step that gets a lot of recognition … it makes our voices heard in a very loud and very strong way.”