CLEVELAND – The flame of resistance to an expected right wing assault on living standards was lit over the Martin Luther King weekend as tens of thousands took part in rallies and marches across the country for Civil Rights, immigrant rights and to defend access to health care.
Major events in 70 cities opposing Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement were held under the auspices of “Our Revolution,” the group initiated by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke to 10,000 at the largest event Sunday on the campus of McComb Community College in Warren, Michigan. U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said many in the audience had voted for President-elect Donald Trump without realizing that his proposed choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, “wants to rip apart Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Affordable Care Act.”
Repeating a message he made throughout his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, Sanders told the cheering crowd, ”This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world and we are the only major country on earth not to give healthcare to all.”
“Today,” he continued, “We fight to defend the Affordable Care Act, but tomorrow we fight for single-payer Medicare for all.”
Trump, he said, may have won the electoral vote, but “very few believe we should repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement.” If that were to happen, 30 million would lose health insurance and 20 million would lose Medicaid coverage, the program providing health care to low income and disabled people.
The Republicans want to destroy health care, Sanders said, but at the same time want to give $300 billion in tax breaks for the top two percent.” Quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he said, “Real change always takes place from the bottom up.” The Republicans, he said, have to worry about millions who believe health care is a right.
“This is just the beginning of the fight, not the end,” Sanders said to loud cheers.
The same message was brought by Sen. Elizabeth Warren to a crowd of 6,000 in front of Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall, while Rep. Nancy Pelosi rallied 2000 in San Francisco and Sen Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic candidate for vice president, was the main speaker at a rally of 1,000 in Richmond, Virginia.
Other large events took place in Portland, Oregon and Raleigh, North Carolina. In Ohio, events were held in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Over 800 signed petitions to save Medicare that were circulated by the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) at the rally of close to 1,500 at a union hall in Columbus.
Republican representatives who called community meetings with constituents over the holiday faced angry constituents protesting their votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Mike Coffman, R., Co., had to sneak out of a meeting he called Saturday when an overflow crowd showed up to oppose his vote. He was later jeered and booed Monday when he attempted to march in Denver’s annual “Marade” honoring Dr. King. Rep Brad Wenstrup, R.,Oh.,faced similar hostile voices at a meeting he called.