SAN FRANCISCO – A peaceful rally to ensure the health care of U.S. residents almost turned deadly earlier today when a motorcyclist tried to plow into participants staging a so-called “die-in” in front of the federal building.
Some 50 protestors were lying down on 7th Street pretending to be dead from a lack of health care, in a protest against the imminent Senate vote on Trumpcare. About two dozen others held up signs and a banner. Protesters scattered out of the path of the speeding motorcyclist, who kept revving his engine as he rode through the group.
Police quickly stopped the man as he turned onto Mission Street. They forced him off his motorcycle at gunpoint and arrested him.
No one was injured, and the rally continued without incident for another half hour.
Today’s protest was part of the National Day of Action to prevent Republicans from dismantling the 2010 Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a bill that would likely cause some 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance. The American Health Care Act (AHCA) has already passed the House, and the Senate is expected to vote on it next week.
Representatives of the SEIU, California Alliance of Retired Americans, and Senior and Disability Action showed up, along with doctors and health care advocates. Some held signs on cardboard headstones that warned of what’s in store for Americans if Trumpcare passes. “RIP Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions,” said one sign. “RIP 23 Million Losing Coverage,” said another.
“The people who are elected are elected as public servants, but they are acting as if they don’t care a damn about us,” said 75-year-old Bay Area resident Hene Kelly, who spoke at the rally. She said politicians in Washington, D.C. are turning the United States into a “Fourth World country.”
“They are doing this in secret,” said Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior and Disability Action.
Lehman was referring to Republican senators who have been working behind closed doors in recent weeks crafting their version of Trumpcare. The bill has not been released and senators have refused to answer questions from reporters on its content.
Dr. Jessica Wang, a resident physician at San Francisco General, said she and her colleagues cannot simply “stand by” when health care is being taken away from millions of people. She spoke about some of her patients whose lives could have fallen apart but for Medi-Cal, the state’s name for Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people.
“In California, 5 million people could lose health care coverage, including 3.6 million who are on Medi-Cal,” said Wang.
Maria Garcia said having in-home support services, now likely to go on the chopping block under AHCA, has kept people like her from feeling isolated and allowed them to continue to be active in their community.
A father from East Oakland, who didn’t want to identity himself, said he was at the rally to show his support for Obamacare.
“I have kids and I worry about their future,” he said.
One young man from the Chinese Progressive Association who spoke at the rally after the motorcycle incident said the attack convinced him how important it was to have health care.
“I am going to work harder than ever,” he said, “to prevent Congress from repealing ACA.”