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Disabled Activists Barred from Capitol Building [Updated]

Philadelphia Weekly

Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed Pennsylvania budget has taken the cleaver to welfare spending so sharp, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz basically promised us last week that people would soon begin dying in the streets. So, today, a group of about 100 disabled activists have taken to the Capitol building to protest such cuts in the midst of debate on the issue. And Corbett was ready.

The group of disabled activists, who call themselves American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) called the protest to help stop the “erosion of consumer choice,” “restricting eligible consumers from services and creating waiting lists” and creating fraud “where none exists” as an excuse to “institutionalize the disabled community.”

In response, the Capitol building has been locked down and barricaded, specifically, the building’s elevators, to keep the activists from getting inside. Allentown Morning Call politics blog Capitol Ideas is on the scene, Tweeting photos of the barricades.

A Corbett Spokesperson says none of the activists have gotten out of hand today, though says “there have been incidents in the past,” and are taking precautions, according to Pennsylvania Independent. He also claims the only people allowed in the Capitol today are those with state-issued ID cards.

The last clash between ADAPT and the Pennsylvania government came in June 2011, when the group held a multi-day protest to call attention to a 17 percent cut in state funding to homecare services. Those state services allow them to live in their home rather than in nursing homes.

The Pennsylvania House Democratic Twitter feed has been taking it to Corbett over the barricades, writing, “#Corbett orders House Security to stand with Capitol Police to help decide “who belongs” — taxpayers and citizens apparently not welcome,” and, “Corbett BLOCKS ACCESS TO CAPITOL so he doesn’t have to see disabled ppl protesting budget,” and: “Perhaps Tom #Corbett needs a refresher on this before his next Capitol lockdown,” referring to the Pennsylvania Constitution, which grants citizens free speech.

UPDATE: As Pennlive reports, restricting public access to the Capitol during rallies is part of a new policy by the Corbett Administration. Today is the just first day of its implementation. We finally got to the a point where we wanted to implement it and it just so happens the first time was today. But it is something that is going to be a standing policy going forward” anytime a major rally is held, Department of General Services spokesman Troy Thompson said.

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