Health care protest takes over GOP office, 31 arrested in Seattle

By Elizabeth Yates, in People's Weekly World,
14 October, 1995

SEATTLE -- Chanting, "Health care, health care," protesters shut down Republican Party headquarters here Oct. 5. Following a huge rally against Medicare/Medicaid cuts at Harborview Medical Center, about 100 people moved to the GOP offices two miles away. Several demonstrators noisily entered the office, taking staffers by surprise. When asked to leave, the protesters sat down.

A "Message to the Republican Party," read by Service Employees local President Diane Sosne and K. L. Shannon, co- chair, Seattle organizing committee of Jobs with Justice, said, in part, "In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., we are holding this non-violent sit-in to express our outrage over the cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. You have not given the American people fair hearings on Medicare and Medicaid. We must raise our voices against this gross economic discrimination and subversion of the democratic process."

The statement called on the Republicans to withdraw their support for the cuts and for tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations.

The group continued shouting slogans and singing solidarity songs, supported by a large group outside the building, and kept the Republican staff from doing their work for an hour- and-a-half.

"What we were in effect saying to them was, 'You're creating a crisis in our lives; we're going to create a crisis in your life'," explained Jonathan Rosenblum, organizer for Washington State Jobs with Justice.

Leading up to the "invasion," approximately 500 people showed up at noon at Harborview, the main trauma center for the four northwest states. The program included testimony from two people whose family members had received crucial care at Harborview, where care will be drastically reduced if these cuts go through; and from Judy Price, 1199 leader and a Harborview nurse. A small acting troupe wearing death masks went into the street with others to block traffic for a few minutes.

Tony Lee, community action director of the Fremont Public Association, pointed out that, under the proposed cuts, "Washington state will get the second biggest hit in the country. By 2002 our state will lose over a billion dollars."

Deana Knutsen, Washington Citizen Action, said, "We have a system that cares more for the wealthy than for the people who need care."

When police arrived at the GOP headquarters, they arrested 31 demonstrators, handcuffed them and put them on a metro bus. Those arrested included nine seniors and four registered nurses, plus others in the health services field. When they arrived at the Seattle police station, the group insisted that the oldest member, Irene Hull, 82, and two other women whose canes had been taken from them, be released from the handcuffs and processed first. The spirit and solidarity of those arrested remained high throughout.

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