"The Journey is not over until Congress passes MiCASSA." - Bob Liston
(WASHINGTON DC) The Free Our People March entered Upper Senate Park over 500 strong. The group of 200 people with disabilities that marched 144 miles from Philadelphia, through Baltimore to Washington DC were joined by another 350 who had rode the Free Our People Train that left New York to rally support for MiCASSA.
"You are the loudest voices of empowerment, the revolutionaries of the Twenty-First Century, you are America the Beautiful," said Yoshiko Dart. "We will continue to march and fight to the end of time to Free Our People."
MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act, is federal legislation to end the bias in long-term care funding that causes nursing homes and institutions to dominate how Americans receive services. Nursing homes are the most expensive and least desirable form of long-term care.
"Where I am from in Montana, a city of 200 people is considered a metropolitan area," said Bob Liston the co-chair of the Free Our People March. "This metro-area moved 7-16 miles per day. The trials and tribulations that we faced were nothing like what people in institutions go through."
Bob Kafka of ADAPT acted as master of ceremonies for the Rally and first introduced Bob Liston, the co-chair of the Free Our People March. Bob and Nancy Salandra have worked a year putting the Free Our People March together, raising money and negotiating to see the event take place and have the powerful impact. Bob Liston, who marched the entire way from Philadelphia, ended his comments by stating that the journey is not over until Congress passes MiCASSA.
"The door needs to be open so that people will have choices," said Senator Tom Harkin, an original co-sponsor of MiCASSA. "It is long past time that people could be in their own homes, not somebody else's nursing home."
Sen. Harkin is seen as a leading advocate for the bill. He passionately supports MiCASSA and tells of personal instances where discrimination and institutionalization, because of disability, has impacted his life. Sen. Harkin said that the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act was never a partisan issue and made a strong declaration that MiCASSA was not partisan legislation.
"Seventy percent of funding for nursing homes is fundamentally unfair," said Arlen Spector, Republican Senator from Pennsylvania and co-sponsor of MiCASSA, "keep plugging and one day we will win this thing."
Representatives Danny Davis, John Shimkus and Dennis Moore together took the stage to rally support for MiCASSA in the House. Each insisted that everyone keep pressuring Congress. Rep.
Moore borrowed the guitar that Elaine Kolb had carried on the march and sang "This Land is Your
"Still more than two million Americans are locked behind institutional doors," said Stephanie Thomas of ADAPT. Pointing to the capitol dome she continued: "Those people have the key to that door. We have to step up the pressure and keep it up. Call your Senators and Representatives and tell them that if Newt Gingrich and Senator Kennedy can get behind this bill, there is no reason why you cannot."
Cecil Walker, working hard on the march behind the scenes joined the marchers for today and spoke at the rally urging Congress to pass MiCASSA.
"We are breaking the chains of fear," said Frank Lozano of El Paso, Texas, "The March intended to change the image of people with disabilities from charity cases into powerful people."
"I love ADAPT like my family. We will fight until we get it, and I will be with you; I love you all," said John Gladstone.
"Everyone along the route supported us," said Mike Oxford, a Free Our People Marcher representing NCIL. "The law of the land is out of touch with the people. Congresses failure to act shows that they are out of touch."
"We will stand and fight with you in the fight for civil rights and justice" said Anna Burger from SEIU.
Terri Galloway did an impression of Scary Lewis, a parody of Jerry Lewis. The character was shocking, loud and ignorant of insulting and demeaning behavior; just like Jerry Lewis.
"Your presence here in Washington is a powerful one," said James Landerman, a co-sponsor of MiCASSA. "People with disabilities not being included is a national disgrace."
The rally ended with Johnny Crescendo singing the powerful song: "Tear Down the Walls."
- Tim Wheat
Read the ILRU webcast
transcript of the rally.
Read about the final day of the Free Our