JEFFERSON CITY (KMOX/Capitol Bureau) – A visitor’s gallery of singing and chanting protesters calling for Medicaid expansion led to the arrest of 23 by Capitol Police.
“Do your job. Expand Medicaid,” is just one of the many chants heard from the Senate public gallery on Tuesday, April 6.
“People are sick and dying while you all enjoy quality health care” said the demonstrators, primarily made up of clergy members.
When police arrived, most of the protesters agreed to leave. Those who did not were arrested, according to a spokesperson for Capitol Police.
If the purpose of the protest was to pressure the Senate into passing expansion of federally-funded health care for the lower income, it did not work.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R- St Charles, said that succumbing to that type of behavior will be unlikely as it could encourage similar behavior on future issues.
“There’s almost a knee jerk reaction to say ‘no we’re not going to consider that’ because we don’t want to condone what just happened,” said Dempsey.
Supporters of expansion said the ignorance of lawmakers since last year is what fueled today’s protest. While opponents fear the long term costs of expanding Medicaid.
Capitol police escorted the last of the protesters out after about an hour of chanting.
A spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Public Safety confirmed that 23 arrests were made after protesters refused to leave.
They were not handcuffed nor taken into custody.
Further charges will be determined by local Cole County prosecutor, but a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said they had not received information on the matter, yet.
Rev. John Bennett, one of the individuals issued an active arrest warrant, said he called the protest a “rally for dignity”, and a mission to save the lives of hundreds of Missourians.
The protest caused the Senate to suspend its session for about one hour, late Tuesday morning.
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