Disabled rights activists occupy governors office

Disabled civil rights activists took over the Capitol office of Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen in Nashville on June 20, saying they intend to remain “as long as necessary.”

The takeover occurred shortly after Bredesen announced that approximately 100 people who live independently but need ventilators would be placed in nursing homes.

“We are here in the governor’s office, as afforded by the constitution of Tennessee to assemble peaceably, to instruct the governor,” said Matthew Leber, director of the Nashville Peace and Justice Center.

On Jan. 10 Bredesen announced plans to cut 323,000 from TennCare, which provides health care insurance for the elderly, disabled and uninsured (see “323,000 working poor hit by man-made disaster” PWW editorial 1/15-21). The protesters are asking for a public meeting with the governor to discuss alternatives to save money and spare cuts to the program.

If the governor’s slashing of TennCare goes into effect, Don DeVaul, a paralyzed carpenter, says that he will have to choose between food and medication. The AARP has filed suit to block the cuts.

“Real change would be for the governor to meet with us publicly” and “explain why options to save TennCare won’t work,” said Randy Alexander of the Memphis Center for Independent Living. It was Alexander’s sharp questioning of Bredesen at a public event two weeks earlier that served to bring attention to the nursing home plan (see “Tennessee cuts services to disabled,” PWW 6/25-7/1).

Members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference brought blankets and pillows to the group on June 27.