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Disability Rights Protesters Arrested At Portman's Office In Columbus

Dan Timmermann
Columbus Police arrested at least 15 disability rights protesters at Sen. Portman's office in Columbus.

At least 16 people were arrested by Columbus Police on Friday at a protest that drew around 50 people to Sen. Rob Portman’s office downtown.

The protest, which also brought more than 50 police officers to the scene, was organized by the disability rights group ADAPT. ADAPT has been holding protests around the country to oppose the GOP health care bill and cuts to Medicaid.

Protestors asked Portman to vote "no" on the Senate’s new health care bill, which they say would take away coverage from those who need it most.

"What we saw were police pulling people out of their wheelchairs without any regard for their safety," says Ken Eno, who came from New York to support family members with disabilities. "At one point, two or three police came through one side of the doorway and that’s when everything kind of started going downhill."

In a tweet, Columbus Police said the protesters were blocking access to emergency medical crews, and would charge those arrested with criminal trespassing. 

Damaris Cluz, who says she has a learning disability, says the police were even rough with protesters with disabilities.

"Multiple cops came in and started pulling everybody from the wheelchair. One of the cops pushed one of the people in the wheelchair off the wheelchair. She can’t move. Her legs don’t work whatsoever," Cluz says. 

Credit Dan Timmermann
According to Columbus Police, protesters were blocking the entrance of the office when emergency medical crews needed to pass. They will be charged with criminal trespassing.

According to Eno, the police then dragged protesters through the lobby and onto the ground outside.

"Piling them on top of each other as if they were dead bodies or something like that," he says.

Cell phone videos from the progressive group Indivisible: Ohio District 12 seem to show police carrying protesters onto the sidewalk and pushing others in wheelchairs out the door.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.
Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.