The morning before he took part in a protest against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act [ACA], Wilton Manors activist Michael Rajner predicted an arrest was in his near future. “I’m likely getting arrested today,” Rajner wrote in an email to SFGN.
He was right.
On Facebook Wednesday night, Rajner posted a video of himself talking about being released by Capitol Police after protesting inside the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. where U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s office is located. He was one of about 155 others who were arrested and temporarily detained.
“I’ve never been one that thought I would engage in an action of non-violent civil disobedience that would result in arrest. Perhaps it’s because the penalty at the nation’s capital, and knowing where to get arrested, results in only a $50 fine and something that just goes away and doesn’t stay on your record.” But, he added, the consequences of not standing up for high-quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare for everyone were greater.
“It’s unimaginable that they continue to decide to want to cover less people and imperil the lives of so many,” said Rajner about the GOP. “I refuse to be silent and I may very well may be up here in Washington, D.C. soon again if these protests continue. Get involved. Don’t be quiet.”
Hours earlier, he posted another video of himself and about two dozen other protesters, some in wheelchairs, inside Rubio’s office. A staffer said Rubio was at the Capitol building at the time.
With shouts that included “Kill this bill, don’t kill us” and “We need treatment, not tax cuts,” Rajner and others performed several “mic checks” in Rubio’s office. A mic check is when a group of people loudly repeat what one person in the group says. It was a tactic made famous by Occupy Wall Street in 2011.
“I implore Senator Rubio: reject the repeal of the ACA which will take away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans. I demand that he support the only solution to our healthcare crisis – Medicare for all,” said one woman who stated she is a registered nurse.
Other speakers talked about the dangers of repealing the ACA and also how it has helped them.
“I’m living with HIV the past 20 years. Without comprehensive health coverage for all people, people with HIV will die like the Reagan days,” shouted Rajner as the group began to file out of Rubio’s office. After leaving the office, Rajner and others sat down in the hallway and continued to chant as others in their group continued on.
“This is your third and final warning. If you do not cease and desist, you will be subject to arrest,” said one Capitol police officer using a megaphone. Moments later, Rajner was arrested.
He later wrote on Facebook that Capitol police were respectful and even thanked him for protesting.
After midnight on Thursday, Rajner wrote “Heading to bed completely fatigue and feeling sick. Hope it passes and I wake refreshed in the morning. The long day was worth it!”
In a video posted on his Facebook page on July 19, Rubio said that he wanted to create a vibrant private sector market where health insurance was affordable for everyone. He criticized the current system as not providing real health insurance because many people never reach their deductible and end up paying out of pocket for healthcare.
Rubio also said he would stand his ground on his promise to repeal the ACA.
“I ran for election in 2010 on the promise of repealing Obamacare and replacing it. I ran for re-election in 2016 on that same promise. It is a promise I intend to do everything I can to keep. It must happen for the good of our country and for the good of our state.” Rubio added that he prefers to repeal and replace all at once but he is willing to do both separately if that’s what is proposed by Senate Republicans. “That’s what I intend to do.”