SOLIDARITY WISCONSIN: Disability rights activists occupy GOP headquarters in Madison

February 24, 2011
David Dayen

MADISON, WI (FDL) – Members of a disability rights group have occupied the Wisconsin Republican Party headquarters in Madison, and vow to stay until Governor Scott Walker takes out the Medicaid provisions in the budget repair bill. The news of the occupation was met with thunderous cheers at a noontime rally in the Capital Rotunda, which featured Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and a large contingent of firefighters from around the state.

ADAPT, the nationwide disability rights group, took over the headquarters to protest the portion of the budget repair bill that switches authority over Medicaid and BadgerCare over to the Department of Health Services. Governor Walker appointed Dennis Smith to run the Department of Health Services, a senior fellow from the Heritage Foundation who has repeatedly argued that states should drop Medicaid altogether. Under the budget repair bill, Smith would have near-unilateral authority to carry that out if he chose. Jonathan Cohn has written extensively about the Medicaid changes in the budget repair bill.

“We are asking the GOP to intervene,” said Jason Glozier with ADAPT, one of the organizers of the occupation. “The changes to Medicaid Assistance have been ignored in this bill. People’s lives are at stake.” Glozier believes that if medical assistance for the disabled is underfunded or unfunded, people will lose jobs and many disabled Wisconsinites would be drastically affected.

Glozier and ADAPT believe that transferring nursing home funding to community-based services funding would save Wisconsin $383 million. “This Governor favors nursing home incarcerations to community services,” Glozier said. “It’s not about the budget, it’s about cutting services.”

There are about 30-40 members of ADAPT in the building and the main rooms on the first floor. Many of them are part of the disabled community. Members of the United Steelworkers and other protesters began to filter in to join them as they heard about the occupation.

ADAPT plans to stay in the headquarters until the state GOP arranges a meeting with Gov. Walker and gets the transfer of power in Medicaid stripped out of the bill. “We will not leave until our deamnds are met or we’re forcibly removed from the building,” Glozier said.

Staffers for the Wisconsin GOP were seen taking literature out of the building and packing it into cars. Asked if they were abandoning the building, a GOP staffer told me, “No, we’re doing our business, we’re working.”

UPDATE: WisPolitics says that police arrived on the scene, but that must have happened recently, as they weren’t there when I was there.