By Dan Hodges, Chair, Health Care for All-California
Around 3PM this afternoon I was one of 12 single payer activists who were
escorted from the reception area of Nancy Pelosi's office in the San
Francisco Federal Building and arrested by members of the Federal Protection Service of U.S. Homeland Security.
Just before noon we went to Pelosi's office to ask Dan Bernal, the district director, make a phone call either to Pelosi herself or Terri McCullough, Pelosi's chief of staff in Washington. We wanted to directly communicate two demands: that the Kucinich amendment be included in the health care bill that will soon be brought to a vote in the House and that the Weiner amendment be voted on by the House, as previously promised by Pelosi.
For two hours Bernal refused to meet with any of us. Then he called in the police and had them arrange for a meeting with himself and three of us in the reception area. The doors between the reception area and the hallway were closed. Two policemen stayed in the room. The other activists and other police stood outside the closed doors in the hallway. Instead of working out how a call could be made so that we could discuss our demands, Bernal promptly and brusquely said he'd just listen to what we wanted and then all of us had to leave the building. As soon as we said that wasn't why we had agreed to the police's conditions to meet with him, Bernal broke off the meeting, left the reception area and went back inside the locked doors to his office.
Then the police took us from Pelosi's office on the second floor to the
basement, where they processed our arrests. Because Bernal was too cowardly to file an official complaint, an elaborate charade was worked out by Bernal, building management and the Federal Protection Service. The misdemeanor charged against all of us was based on a technicality: our singing and chanting for single payer was not in accord with the rules and regulations of the federal building. This technicality was then extended to mean that we had "disobeyed" the police officers. We were issued citations and told that we would be summoned to court later. Then we were dismissed from the building.
>From noon until we emerged from the basement with our citations in hand,
there was a spirited rally for single payer taking place across the street. The demonstrators included a large contingent of members of the California School Employees Association, some of whom had come from Sacramento and Stockton. The rally also included members of California Nurses Association and Single Payer Now.
The "Pelosi Twelve" are members of organizations such as ActforSinglePayer, AFSCME District Council 57, California Alliance of Retired Americans, California School Employees Association, Gray Panthers, and Health Care for All-California.
All of us today, those who were arrested and those who rallied in support of us, will keep fighting to get the Kucinich amendment in the House health care bill. And we'll keep fighting to win single payer in California and the nation. Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats or sell-out Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, will not prevent us from succeeding.
Although the Kucinich amendment was not included in the Manager’s amendment, the Weiner amendment probably will be offered for a House vote, according to Ellen Shaffer.
The exclusion of the Kucinich amendment is not fatal to our efforts for single payer in California. After all, we worked hard and placed Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s SB 840 on the governor’s desk twice without a state waiver in effect. We’ll move Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 810 to this governor’s desk and to that of the next governor without the Kucinich amendment in whatever bill Obama signs. ERISA or no, we’re going to get single payer achieved in California and the nation.
While it would be easy to focus our contempt on Pelosi, the word is that only Lynn Woolsey in the Progressive Caucus supported Kucinich’s amendment to the end. In any event, as we all know, our capacity to succeed is fundamentally based on our grassroots power.
Now it’s up to us to redouble our efforts to build a bigger, stronger and more diverse single payer movement.
And we will win.