"I'd rather go to jail than to die without Medicaid," chanted Wheelchair Sports Camp MC Kalyn Heffernan, around 7 p.m., Thursday, June 29, as she live-streamed footage of police arresting her fellow activists. The disability rights group ADAPT had been staging a three-day sit-in at Republican Senator Cory Gardner's office. At the time she was filming, her own arrest was inevitable.
The demonstrators, many in wheelchairs, had pledged on Tuesday, June 27, to occupy Gardner's Denver office until the senator promised to vote no on a GOP-backed healthcare measure that the Congressional Budget Office says would lead to 22 million people losing health insurance by 2026.
Gardner's office has not replied to multiple requests for comment on the protest.
The sit-in was into its third day when police started arresting demonstrators. As Heffernan watched officers awkwardly attempt to take away people in weighty wheelchairs, she said, "This is where our tax money goes: arresting cripples for fighting for healthcare."
Police warned each of the protesters that they were trespassing and gave them a chance to leave. Heffernan told her fellow activists: "This is my first time. They can't fucking break me."
She continued to chant as arrests went on around her. Eventually officers approached Heffernan.
"Are you ready?" asked a cop.
As they took her away and turned off her phone, cutting off more than 6,000 people who had tuned in, she continued to chant: "I'd rather go to jail than to die without Medicaid."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.