Health Care Protest in Connecticutt

Activists Shake Up Capitol With Sit-Ins For Health Care
by Christopher Keating

On one of the busiest days of the year at the state Capitol, 22 demonstrators were arrested Friday as they called for universal health care and a single-payer health system.

The activists were taken into custody at various locations throughout the building, prompting the heaviest police presence at the Capitol this year. Officers were stationed in the House and Senate galleries and outside the doors of the chambers to ensure order.

Nine protesters were arrested outside Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s office, after they staged a sit-in and refused to leave. Sixteen uniformed police officers moved in to make the arrests.

Capitol Police Chief Michael J. Fallon said that all 22 protesters were charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, for their actions at a time when both the House and Senate were in session. Some were arrested for blocking the stairways, and those outside the governor’s office were told in advance that they would be arrested if they did not leave.

“Although they were arrested, they were ladies and gentlemen,” said Fallon, a former Hartford Police Department veteran who joined the Capitol police in December. “Despite the initial interruption, things did go orderly. This type of behavior was disruptive to the legislative process.”

Robert Madore, director of Region 9A of the 67,000- member United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America union, said the activists showed up outside Rell’s office after she failed to respond to a written request for a meeting at 4 p.m. Friday.

“We’ve been trying to communicate with the governor since December,” Madore said as he sat on the floor outside Rell’s office. “She didn’t even have the courtesy to respond, nor did she call, nor did she fax. We prepared to be [arrested], and we’re going to wait as long as we have to. We think this issue needs to be brought to a head.”

The activists noted that Rell has not embraced universal health care as a way to provide coverage for an estimated 400,000 uninsured. Rell says the state has been making steady progress in signing up thousands of children in the popular HUSKY health insurance program in an effort to ensure that all children are covered.

Brian Petronella, president of Local 317 of the 11,000- member United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said he was fighting to get universal health care because many low-wage workers are forced to have their children on the state-operated HUSKY program. Petronella, a 51- year-old Norwalk resident, noted that he lost an election against Robert Genuario, a former Norwalk senator who is now Rell’s budget director. Despite that connection, Petronella said, he could not get a meeting with Rell and so he was sitting on the floor outside the office.

“We have to get universal health care,” said Petronella, who was among those arrested.


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