At least 15 protesters were arrested at the office of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in downtown Columbus, police confirmed Friday.
Protesters from a coalition of progressive groups, and from the Ohio chapter of the national disability rights group ADAPT, demonstrated outside the senator’s office, urging him to vote against the GOP-backed health care bill under consideration in the Senate.
Portman has said he does not support the current version of the bill, but only announced his opposition after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delayed a vote on the legislation. (Portman also opposed the House version of the bill, saying it did “not do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, especially those who are receiving treatment for heroin and prescription drug abuse.”)
Protesters first gathered in the lobby of the senator’s office building on Thursday, calling on him to hold a town hall meeting with constituents so they could voice concerns over the GOP bill’s drastic cuts to Medicaid and other aspects of the legislation. According to Fox 28, some protesters stayed at the office overnight.
The group of roughly 30 protesters convened at the office again Friday in hopes of speaking directly with the senator or his staff. The protest remained peaceful throughout the day.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, medics were called to the scene shortly after 3 p.m. to treat a person experiencing chest pain in the building. Columbus police said law enforcement was then called in as backup due to claims that protesters “were blocking medics from entering” the building.
A video live-streamed on ADAPT’s Facebook page shows police removing protesters in wheelchairs from the building.
Another video shows a woman being lifted out of her wheelchair by police and placed in a van:
Police later confirmed that charges against the protesters include criminal trespassing.
Portman press secretary Emily Benavides said the senator’s staff in Columbus spoke with demonstrators Thursday and Friday. Law enforcement was only called due to the issue in the building, she said.
“Rob welcomes input from all 11.5 million Ohioans who are able to visit or call any of our offices to discuss any topic,” Benavides said in a statement. “Yesterday, we met with protesters from the Democratic Socialists of America, and after they refused to leave even when the buildings closed, we allowed them to stay the night. Our staff spoke with them again today. We aren’t going to allow a handful of Socialists, many of whom are from New York, to disrupt our ability to serve the needs of the Ohio constituents who contact us in need of vital services every day. When the groups impeded the work of other tenants in the building, building security called local law enforcement.”
Read more on earlier health care sit-ins here.