#AdvocacyMatters: Reflections Of A Dark Day

January 8, 2021 / #AdvocacyMatters

This week, we all watched in horror as an armed mob overtook the U.S. Capitol building for the first time in more than 200 years. Violent encounters with this angry mob led to broken windows and vandalism in the Peoples’ House, taking the life of a Capitol Police officer and injuring dozens of others. Our elected Senators and Representatives were forced to shelter in place in the hallowed House and Senate chambers before escaping to secure locations. The images of an angry mob occupying this sacred space will fill textbooks for generations to come. After several hours, the mob was forced back down the Capitol steps. Order was restored and Democracy moved on.

Just a few short years ago, a peaceful protest at the Capitol ended in a very different way. In the summer of 2017, doctors, nurses, people with disabilities, and advocates staged peaceful sit-ins to protest a Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Senate bill threatened the healthcare of at least 22 million Americans and cuts to Medicaid totaling more than $770 Billion. As was done in the 1977 504 sit-ins, people with disabilities, advocates, and medical professionals fought back. In images that we may have too soon forgotten, police were seen tearing peaceful protestors out of wheelchairs, carrying them out of the building, and taking them into custody. More than 100 were arrested that day. The Senate bill was defeated.

Last year, we released a sweeping report on inequality in our systems of policing and justice. Through exhaustive advocacy, research, and community engagement we identified major issues and outlined substantive steps to address them. Despite representing only 20 percent of the population, those with disabilities make up 30 to 50 percent of individuals subject to police use of force. It is estimated that one-third to one-half of people killed by police are people with disabilities. Additionally, the risk of being subjected to police violence increases as disability intersects with race, class, gender, and LGBTQ+ status. While the mission behind Wednesday’s mob violence and 2017’s peaceful sit-in cannot in good faith be compared, the reaction of those charged with protecting the Peoples’ House in either case shows just how much farther we have to go.

Our mission, our work, and our communities are worth fighting for, and we will continue to do so with peace, tenacity, and resolve. We stand against violence, we stand against insurrection, and we stand against inequality. The ideals of our Republic don’t rest within intimidation, they exist in the spirit of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. That’s why we fight… because even in our darkest days, #AdvocacyMatters.

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