St. Paul, MN - On May 11, members of ADAPT Minnesota and up to 20 of their supporters challenged politicians to not accept any of the Republicans’ health and human services cuts to people with disabilities. While the supporters stood outside the Senate chamber doors with signs, four members from ADAPT MN - Galen Smith, Chris Bell, Nikki Villavicencio-Tollison and Darrell Paulsen - went to the senate gallery intending to send a clear message to the politicians below. As soon as the session’s gavel struck down, the four ADAPT members shouted, "I'd rather go to jail than die in a nursing home!" The session came to a halt while the four were briefly detained and removed from the gallery.
ADAPT MN members decided to disrupt the floor session because of the proposed budget cuts by the hands of the Republican leaders. People fear these cuts go through, it will send them to expensive and unhealthy nursing homes and institutions.
All four demonstrators were still chanting, “Our homes, not nursing homes!” and “Cuts kill!” as they were removed one by one by the capitol police. Nikki Villavicencio-Tollison described looking down from the gallery to see the reactions of the legislatures. “Most of them looked stunned while some looked curious.”
Villavicencio-Tollison said, “What we accomplished today was to show the GOP, especially the Senate GOP, that people with disabilities are not going to allow these devastating cuts to happen. We want them to understand that our independence costs less. We shouldn’t have to fight to stop these cuts. Disability services are human rights!”
Galen Smith said, “I am here as a queer, transgender and a person with a disability. What the GOP is doing right now hurts our communities and families. The GOP is trying to restrict marriage [referring to the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment that was slated to hit the floor that day] and making major cuts to people with disabilities. The proposed cuts will kill people. Thousands of people will end up in institutions. This is not acceptable!”
Chris Bell stated, “The GOP believes some human beings are worth more than others. That’s a sin. The GOP is willing to have all kinds of human beings - whether they are people with disabilities, the poor or the elderly - all to be put in a boat and they would pull the plug. Only the wealthy people are more worthy than other people and the cuts in the budget prove it. They are balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class. The DFL [Democrats] in Minnesota need to get a moral clarity on this.”
Darrell Paulsen wanted to send a clear message to the Republican caucus and the powers that be, “People with disabilities are tired of being pushed down and having to endure devastating cuts. They need to rethink the budget and not to balance the budget on people with disabilities.”
Another part of the Republican proposal is to give counties block grants so they decide how to split up the money and services. Paulsen added, “Giving all the power to the counties to decide how to spend the state money for people with disabilities isn’t the solution.”
All four were escorted out of the capitol by the police and were given a no trespassing ticket. They were warned that if they come back into the capitol anytime that the day, they would be arrested. However, they vowed that they will not stop protesting.