Thursday, November 30, 2017

We're Still Dying, World AIDS Day, the Attack on Healthcare and other Reflections on CRASH the Capitol: NO #TaxScam! NO healthcare cuts! #TaxScam #TrumpTaxScam #GOPTaxScam #KillTheBill

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We Are Dying (STILL) – A World AIDS Day Action at Duffy Square
 — with AlanTimothy Lunceford-Stevens.

Eighteen hours after arriving back home from the cd to stop the tax bill in congress, I made my way to Times Square for ACT UP's World AIDS Day action.   The group declared: "We are here to hold this administration and the international community accountable for perpetuating the stigma of HIV. In 2016, 1.6 million people globally contracted HIV. Currently, 72 countries criminlize HIV. If we want to end the epidemic, we must push legislations to decriminalize HIV and to stop using stigma-inducing language. We'll also be highlighting cases in which people were incarcerated for being HIV+. Join us. 
WHAT: "WAD: We Are Dying (Still)" - a protest prior to World AIDS Day
WHEN: Wednesday, November 29, 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm 
WHERE: Times Square steps (7th Ave & W 47th St, New York, NY 10036)."

With the republicans poised to gut the social safety net which has allowed those people with HIV and health insurance to cope, the action could not feel more relevant. 

This writer in DC the day before. Every day the resistance to the bill expands. 
As my friend Michael Kerr wrote before the action: "For those dear to me with GOP leanings - this isn't about how you vote and think so much as it's ABOUT MY LIFE AND MY ABILITY TO LIVE. It's about me being able to eventually leave NYC (what I call an HIV sanctuary city where healthcare and medications are free to me because I live below poverty but my landlord gets 62% of my social security) and move to Florida to live and care for my mother at some point. It's about making sure fewer and fewer people do not have to go through what I've experienced including your own children and your grandchildren...
Friday, December 1st is World AIDS Day - and people are STILL dying...
That's why tonight I'll be at Times Square at 6 pm with my hardworking comrades to make an impactful statement about HIV/AIDS and how our current government administration has been promoting the epidemic instead of fighting it.
Even to be there tonight I had to stay in bed all day yesterday just to have the energy. That's what my life is like living with HIV - one day up and about for no more than 5 hours of really good energy, the next one usually in bed resting the entire day. That's my life literally - and besides living in almost constant fear I consider myself very lucky.

Arriving I saw my friends Michael, Timothy, and Mel, greeting some of the newer members of ACT UP I am only just getting to know. 

Timothy and i had been in DC all day together, the day before.  

"Health care is a right, health care is a right!  Stop the Tax Bill!" we chanted at Times Square. 

"HIV is not a crime. Pills not prison!"

Standing by Tim, I thought of our actions the day before. Driving to DC, Tim told me why he was there.

 "I came down here cause I'm on medicare disability," he explained to me. "And they are going to gut it.   I wouldn't be able to pay my $81,000.00 for chemo thats paid for by medicare and insurance.  I've had HIV for thirty years.  I've used healthcare to stay alive."

And he showed his courage and love to be down in dc fighting for all of us.

People like Tim are part of what make this activism worthwhile.

Many people with HIV were down in DC fighting.

Olga told me her story. "My dad was a Holocaust survivor. After that he lived through Stalin's starvation.  Whenever he saw someone wronged, he stood up.  He showed me how to stand up. I was taught very young to be an advocate.  And more in 1999 when i was diagnosed with HIV.  And today, i don't want to see more people treated the same way i was, with stigma.  It opened my eyes to what happens when people do not have insurance or rights.  I am so scared this is going to be another Holocaust," she concluded, "killing off those who do not fit in."

People with HIV were not the only people in DC.  Countless advocates, regular people were there. 

Anna told me: "three weeks ago I had an accident.  The bill was $200,000.00  If I had had to pay that I would have been bankrupted.  I'm a lucky one  I have insurance.  Everyone should have health insurance."  

Dan Royales came from Florida for the action.  "I'm a professor of history and the Republican Tax bill would raise the tax burden on students and increases the cost of college by $65 billion dollars, making education less accessible."

Elizabeth Deutsche, also in line for the hearing, explained:  "The  GOP tax bill will destroy medicaid and medicare, forcing the elderly out of nursing homes, increasing the financial burden on everyone, destabilizing health insurance markets."

Dan followed up explaining the tax bill from the perspective of HIV/AIDS.  "I live in Florida, where we have the highest rates of new infections for HIV.  People with HIV rely on medicare and medicaid for the medications that keep them alive and less likely to pass it on.  The tax plan will trigger deep cuts to medicaid and medicare.  So people with HIV will die faster, more painfully, making the epidemic worse."

As of now, the bill has not passed.  Many are going back to DC on Tuesday.  As Paul Davis explains:  
yesterday, the birddog nation was in fierce form. Senator Enzi was forced to rush a vote that had been planned to take place after at least an hour of speechifying—but instead he had to take roll over riotous disruptions that shook the halls of Congress and left him visibly shaken. The Rs voted and fled the room, but were snagged by reporters in the hallway, surrounded by birddoggers, and shamed for their disgraceful votes.
A day of disarray later, the republican leadership are still trying to cut precarious deals. Turns out though that the “triggers” that revoke corporate tax cuts the fiscal conservatives demanded create massive irritation with the business conservatives, and such deals are on the verge of breaking the willingness of the House republicans to simply rubber stamp the Senate bill. We have openings with both likely and unlikely suspects, ranging from Senator Kennedy in LA to Moran in Kansas, Tillis in NC to Collins in ME.

This deal is NOT done — we are teetering on the brink, and the victory is tremendous if we can pull it off! At the end of the day, the Rs have had one act this year: take from the sick to give to the rich. We are really close to stopping them in their tracks and grinding their entire agenda to a halt.
Our opponents are putting everything they have into this fight. We need to come back stronger.
DEC 5: the ultimate showdown in DC. We must be more powerful than ever before.
NOW: LIGHT UP THOSE PHONES. Make phone calls AND *set up phone meetings* with staffers from Moran, Collins, Tillis, Kennedy, Murkowski, Flake, McCain, Young, Corker, Lankford, Daines, and Johnson. 202 224 3121 is the Congressional Switchboard.
Next week: COME TO DC. We will transport, house and feed you, and deal with all legal support. Caveat: if you are far away from DC and expensive to transport, we can probably only fly you if you can risk arrest. SIGN UP HERE, NOW:
We’ll try to arrive by Monday, get trained, then be ready to roll out Tuesday morning the 5th.
There will be buses from NYC and Philadelphia. If you think you can fill a bus or a van from somewhere else, please let us know and we’ll help you pay for it.
Travel Qs?: email Molly at
PS: also, a reminder: there is a national action for a clean DACA in DC on Dec 6th. We are very happy to fly you to Washington and keep you over if you can help support that action too.

Paul Davis
National Advocacy Coordinator, Housing Works • Washington, DC+1 202 817 0129
Skype/im: pdavisx

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

#KillTheBill! Don't kill us! Activists fight #GOPTAXSCAM! 13 Million will lose their healthcare!

Kill the Bill, Don't Kill US! we chanted as the GOP voted to
 change the tax code 
without holding a single hearing. 

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Arrested trying to stop the rich from stealing from the poor in dc. the tax bill is the most regressive piece of legislation of my lifetime.  Photo by Timothy Luceford.   As Jennifer Flynn Walker wrote: "It's another day in Trump's America so we are shutting down another murderous hearing. CPD ActionHousing Works Inc."
Its been a crazy year.  Many have said it. This was the year when the absurd became real as a reality tv star really did take the helm, no experience whatsoever.  They gave him the codes to the nukes.  And then something strange happened. Reality started to set in.  He started losing.  The people checked in with their bodies.  And we beat back a lot of the assault on labor, health and people with disabilities, a lot.  But the blows were coming daily.

I've been to DC more times this year than in the past decade, arrested twice, see limos burn, beaten by Trump supporters, and contemplated the Vietnam Memorial. 

Tuesday, was the most recent episode. 

On Monday, I started posting notes to my friends, echoing AIDS activist Paul Davis, Jennifer Flynn, and Jaron Benjamin who were organizing:

"Come join me in DC on tuesday- we HAVE to stop this tax bill. Losing the individual mandate will destroy the ACA, and the cuts to medicaid and medicare will be brutal. Millions of lives are at stake and we are short on people. Free bus from NYC!"

Leaving at 5 AM, I dropped a note on facebook. 

Off to DC again. We gotta stop this horrible tax bill, robbing from the poor to feed the rich. We gotta stop it.  

In the last six months, Flynn and company have organized a completely open, inclusive model of direct action, announcing actions and trainings weeks in advance, hiding behind nothing, competely transparent. 

Paul Davis described the strategy. 

"Senators snuck a partial repeal of the ACA into an already terrible tax cut bill.
ONCE AGAIN, republicans are trying to take from the sick to give to the rich. ONCE AGAIN, we WON’T let this happen.

JOIN US in Washington DC for TWO non-violent civil disobedience actions:
the first on November 28th, the second on December 5th.

Working together, we can KILL ACA REPEAL *AND* the corporate tax cuts bill!
BONUS: stay through December 6th and you can also support a massive mobilization for a clean DACA

Who we are, what we do:
To save the Affordable Care Act (ACA), on the road to universal, high-quality affordable health care, we needed to turn republicans in their home districts. Early in 2017, Housing Works and the Center for Popular Democracy started training small groups of independent activists across the country, in advanced tactics to influence their Members of Congress (MOC). These “birddoggers” focus on getting to the person who has the power to give us what we need, in person, and in public--whether or not they are having town hall meetings. Since launching in February, more than 85 groups in 70 cities have come together, representing an army of thousands and thousands of activists from more than 40 states and the District of Columbia. These people have joined together and created an unstoppable force to save healthcare in America.

The birddogger network refused to take no for an answer, so when MOCs became too afraid to hold public events in their own districts and went into hiding, this “birddog nation” mobilized to take over Senate offices (once 49 in a single day!), shut down Senate hearings, and put their bodies on the line to STOP a Senate vote to take away our healthcare to pay for tax cuts for the rich. The work of the birddoggers has been publicly credited and thanked for (so far) saving the ACA by political leaders like Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Nancy Pelosi, among others. We’re close to finishing off the entirety of the Trump legislative agenda before 2018 elections–but we need more reinforcements to get across the finish line!

COMING UP: TWO non-violent direct actions, risking arrest in Washington DC. We will transport, train, provide legal support for, house and feed every activist who can come to DC and put their body on the line to save this country from Donald Trump. Nov 28 and Dec 5: signup to below to STOP TRUMPCARE TAX CUTS!

We can’t save healthcare without you! If you can travel to DC either (or both) days, we can help you get there. You’ll arrive in time for a civil disobedience training, spend the day speaking truth to power, then head home late that night or following day. Basic group lodging will be available at a local DC church for those who need it. Questions? Email Paul Davis at or Molly Sandley at"

The timing is crucial, wrote Davis:

"The Rs are moving fast to pass a tax bill that bankrupts the country, defunds Medicare, jacks up insurance rates for EVERYONE, and throws 13 million people off healthcare. All this, to pay for tax cuts for corporations and millionaires. Ryan to Mr. Koch: "Ohey, PS bro, checkit: you get an *extra* tax cut if you have a private jet. We’ll pay for that by removing healthcare tax deductions and school supplies for teachers.” 

BIG UPDATE: The R’s are trying to wrap up their Senate bill quickly, right after Thanksgiving recess. They hope to vote before Dec 1 if they can. Here’s the timeline the Rs are shooting for. But thousands of activists from every state in the country have news for TrumpConnellRyan: Not. Gonna. Happen. We’re stepping up.

We’re going to DC. TWICEWe land first on Nov 28th, during the beginning of the end of tax bill negotiations, and then again the following week, on Dec 5, to stop the atrocity in it’s tracks before any final votes. Where ever this bill is in the process, we’ll be there together until we’ve won.

Tuesday Nov 28 * and * Tuesday, Dec 5. Sign up here, now"

I've been arrested twice this year with my friend Kate, once in NYC and once in DC.  

Kate and my friends Austin and Tim joined me on the drive to DC. 

We'd meet Jennifer and company at the Capital Skyline Hotel, right by the police precinct where activists had been held in recent actions. 

Jennifer, a housing and healthcare activist I've known for two decades, was holding a CD training when we arrived at ten am. 

"Get inside the Dirksen Office building by noon and get in line for the Senate Banking Committee hearing on the tax bill.  Senator Sanders will welcome everyone and ask that we have a chance to speak,"  she explained.  "Thats where the drama is."

Two or three Senators are against it, she continued.  But no one was sure if anyone was a solid no.  Senator Murkowski was a solid no on two ACA repeal bills. But she appears to have been bought off with the drilling in Alaska. 

"Blood for oil," noted one activist. 

Benjamin Jaron, of Housing Works, explained the scenario and the pressure on the moderates in the room for the 23 person committee, split by party lines with Republicans in the majority.

"There is some emotion to it.  You are a citizen blocking a hallway and you are arrested, while those in charge are are robbing 13 million people of their healthcare. And those who are taking that away are fine. There's a situation where the injustice of it all hits you hard. The world's gone crazy.  A celebrity has taken over.  But right is still right. "

He explained the scenario for disrupting the hearing as we had done with Graham Cassidey in September. 

"When I got arrested for disrupting congress, many on the committee seemed to agree with me. Many joined us saying we were right about the debt ceiling."

Some in the room were considering disrupting the hearing.  Others were planning to create  chaos outside. 

Tim, Austin, and Kate and I were all on team one, who planned to make noise in the hall.  Only some of us will even make it into the hearing, where many senators and lobbyists have their seats held by people until the hearing to keep the regular people out. 

Tim, a long term AIDS survivor, is wearing a hat with a picture of Elizabeth Taylor, who he befriended during the early AIDS years. 

"Our compassion is more compelling than our need to blame," Elizabeth Taylor.

"I guess we're getting arrested with Elizabeth Taylor," I noted.

"She's with me," Tim followed.  We talked all day about his years of aids activism, never letting the fights or bickering get him down.  "We are only on this planet but for so long so I can't let that stuff worry me," he explained, his zen philosophy an example this activist might do well to emulate."
He smiled and told stories about bird dogging senators, following them into bathrooms and lobbying them, talking with John McCain about cancer, before his last no vote on ACA repeal.

Jennifer is teaching us chants: "No tax reform.  Medicaid cuts kill!" she tries.

"Thats one of your best Jennifer," I crack.  Lets still with "kill the bill don't kill us."

"I know i'm terrible at this stuff," she smiles.

We practice Mic Checking for the hearing.

"Mic Check, I am a nurse from Vermont.  And I know this bill will kill medicaid.  And people will die," one nurse screamed.  There were several on hand.   Each knows how dangerous these cuts can be for their clients. They know health care is a right.  Its something everyone deserves, not just the rich, not just those with the congressional health plans.

We talk through our scenario.  Activists from Justice and Action will take the lead inside the hearing room, starting off the mic checks, hopefully disrupting the hearing.

Once they are arrested, we will clog up the hallways, creating havoc.

"We are asking you to be flexible," notes Jennifer, exploring plan A and B for the action, including birdogging several of the moderate senators.

Meagan will start the mic checks inside.  "My name is Meagan and I rely on medicaid."  She will get arrested, followed by the rest of us. The bill is just horrible.  We all have to take chances to make this happen, to kill the bill.

"Mic check, my name is Mark Milano," my friend Mark, of ACT UP, follows. "I am living with HIV and living cancer.  Lisa Murkowski.  Be our hero. I came here because people are not aware of how dangerous this bill is.  It will kill medicare, medicaid, and the ACA.  This bill will hurt millions of Americans in order to enrich millionaires.  Call Senators Murkowski, McCain, and Collins.  Plead for them to put their constituents ahead of the Koch brothers..  Do they really need a tax break?

"Mic check.  My name is Rebeca. This bill will steal from my daughter's future. Don't steal her future," Rebecca practices.

Outside the hall of the hearings, we talked for hours.  I ran into my friend Heather who is working for Senator Sanders.  She was not sure we could beat back this assault. She promised to call a friend who is a photographer to show up at the hearing.

My friend Austin, who I have known from environmental activism for well over a decade, decided to jump on board for the action at 7 PM the night before.  "I came down to lobby in June.  I'm remembering my friend Bill Meier, a legendary bike messenger from Williamsburg, I've known for years. He got an ulcer and ruptured an artery.  His body shut down.  Before he died, everyone in the community set up a fundraising committee to pay for his medical bills.  He had no insurance for twenty years.  Everyone needs insurance.  I came down because this was a way of effectively addressing this issue."

As Senators walked into the hearing, we plead with them to kill the bill.  Each dismissed us, except Sanders who got a rousing applause.

When Lindsey Graham called Jennifer Flynn "rude" my friend Kate pointed out that this puts her health at risk.

As the hearing began to rumble, more and more chaos ensued. Activists inside started  mic checking. We blocked the halls. Lay down, screamed "health care is a right!"  "No blood for oil!"  People were dragged away.

Many went limp.

We blocked the elevators.

And we spent the afternoon in jail.

As we got out we heard that several of the moderates were supporting the bill now.

"You can only dodge bullets so long before eventually one hits you," explained my friend Zach, whose been arrested four times this year. "I got arrested this time because its a horrible, horrible bill.  And i could not live with myself if i hadn't done everything in my power to stop it."

Austin, Kate, Tim and I drove home reading reports about the hearings.

After I home I wrote:

Just back from DC fighting america the greedy. This tax bill is the worst, most regressive bill i've seen. We have to push back harder, get more people calling and showing up, bird dogging, screaming at senators willing to steal from the poor to pay for the rich. People from Maine need to lean on Collins who caved, Ludmila Svoboda. I saw Lindsey Graham call Jennifer Flynn Walker rude for reminding him that the CBO score for the bill has nothing to do with the bullshit he was spewing to the press. i saw people with disabilities halled away, moms with their kids in wheelchairs fighting for their kids future, people with hiv fighting for healthcare which would save their life, and the republicans plan to pass a tax bill adding a 1.4 trillion dollar tax giveaway, increasing taxes on those making less than $75,000.00 a year so the Koch brothers and the elite can get a tax break. Is this America?

Gregg Gonsalves wrote:
 DC, get there. If you can get to local Senate offices get there. Don't take no for an answer until they vote NO. Otherwise, welcome to the new 19th century because that's where we're headed: the new gilded age. Act up. Fight back.

Meagan is here to say #nogoptaxreform. "This bill will kill me and my friends." @ Dirksen Senate…

#nogoptaxreform "We're here to save healthcare. This is a life or death thing for Mr Donte" 

Nick is here because tax reform is a #taxondisability, an attck on the ADA @ Dirksen Senate…

"im doing this cause im on medicare disability. and they r about to gut it." #nogoptaxreform  

"this tax bill is a war on the poor!" #nogoptaxreform @ Dirksen Senate Office Building

"This bill is bad for public health!" #nogoptaxreform #nogoptaxscam @ Dirksen Senate Office…

Jennifer Flynn working the press after organizing our CD and being called "rude" by Senator Graham. 

"if this tax bill passes, it will hurt a lot of my friends!" #nogoptaxreform

Everyone that’s marched, picketed, phone banked and birddogged, contacted Congresspeople and mailed postcards, chanted and marshaled, gave time and resources to people in need, and devoted time to fighting for justice, Rise and Resist is thankful for you today. #resist