The disability rights activists who yesterday staged civil disobedience actions at the Little Rock offices of gubernatorial candidates Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross are today going after Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the influential political nonprofit primarily funded by the Koch brothers.
Why? Because Americans for Prosperity is one of the only groups that’s been advocating against the Community First Choice Option (CFCO), a proposed change in Arkansas Medicaid that would allow some 2,900 people with developmental disabilities to access care at home or in a community-based setting, rather than in an institution. CFCO is a part of an array of changes created by the Affordable Care Act that nudge states towards providing home-based care, which families generally prefer to institutionalization (home/community care is also generally much cheaper).
To Americans for Prosperity, its association with Obamacare makes it a no-go. “AFP has issued a document about the CFCO that contains untruths,” said Brenda Stinebuck, who represents the Hot Springs chapter of the national organization behind the protests, ADAPT. Some in the Arkansas legislature are opposed to CFCO, partly because of AFP’s influence, perhaps, and partly because of a desire to protect interests in their districts that benefit from Medicaid dollars flowing to institutions such as nursing homes and human development centers.
Stinebuck also said the activists had been treated poorly by the Little Rock police. In a statement yesterday, the LRPD said that it had arrested protesters who refused to move out of the street when asked. Stinebuck says activists in wheelchairs aren’t able to safely stay on the sidewalks, and that in other cities the police have been much more understanding of that fact.
“In other places, the police usually escort us down the street,” she said. “[Little Rock police] arrested someone yesterday for saying they ‘couldn’t get up on the damn curb cut.’ Two people weren’t able to get out of the street and were arrested. …They have violated our civil rights.” In a statement on their website, ADAPT says it is considering a civil rights lawsuit.
This morning, it sounds as if the LRPD is being more lenient. Stinebuck sent this message about their march towards the AFP office: “We are headed out with a cooperative police escort. We are being allowed to march in the street.”
As for the actions at the gubernatorial candidates offices yesterday, Stinebuck reiterated the difference in reception between the two campaigns.
“Ross’ staff welcomed us in, the whole group — met with us right away. Hutchinson had his doors locked. No one got close. People got arrested…. We’ve asked before to meet with him at our Hot Springs location and never got a response.
ADAPT also provoked arrests on Monday when it occupied the offices of the Arkansas Health Care Association, a lobbying group that includes nursing homes.