Protest Groups Heckle Pelosi at Conference

Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:03am

At least two protest groups heckled Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning as she gave a speech to a progressive conference in Washington, D.C.

As the California Democrat began talking about the passage of health care legislation at the America’s Future Now conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, two protesters from CodePink quietly unfurled a banner in front of the stage reading, “Stop Funding Israel Terror.”

The move comes a week after Israel took heat for raiding a flotilla that was delivering supplies to the Gaza Strip, killing crew members.

But those protesters were quickly overshadowed by a group of mostly wheelchair-using activists who have engaged in civil disobedience around the city in recent months and years to bring attention to an act that would allow for long-term home-care facilities for disabled people.

“I am not going back to a nursing home,” one woman from the group ADAPT frantically yelled before the rest of the group, about 20 people, started chanting, “Our homes, not nursing homes.”

“It’s institutional bias,” the woman shouted as ADAPT representatives handed out pamphlets reading, “Nancy Pelosi Refuses to Support the Right of Seniors and People with Disabilities to Live in Freedom!”

A visibly perturbed Pelosi tried to quell the chants by saying, “I support that.”

“I heard your message, I appreciate your concern,” she added. Pelosi said that the health care law includes the CLASS Act, which helps disabled people pay for services. But the group rebutted her by yelling that it’s not enough and they need the Community Choice Act passed.

Eventually, Pelosi, flanked by security, gave her address. But the group, known for barricading buildings to make their point — most recently the National Governors Association building last month — kept chanting throughout Pelosi’s speech, making it largely inaudible. Individual protesters mingled throughout the crowd in motorized wheelchairs yelling at audience members.

“Hey hey, ho ho, nursing homes have got to go,” they chanted.

What ensued over the next 20 minutes was a battle for the attention of the crowd. Pelosi supporters yelled at the protesters telling them to be quiet. But they refused to acquiesce and chanted through Pelosi’s speech about creating jobs, reducing the deficit and implementing the new health care law.

Many audience members crowded to the front of the stage, standing and cheering loudly to support Pelosi and counter the fervent protests. The Speaker continued through her speech, touting several Democratic policy issues.

She vowed to keep a Democratic majority in Congress even if it means going “door to door to door.”

Pelosi called the BP oil spill a “fundamental betrayal of the American people.”

She said Democrats and President Barack Obama have saved the country from a banking crisis created during the Bush administration and that financial regulatory reform is another step toward preventing further abuses of the banking industry.

“No longer will those on Wall Street be able to privatize the gain and nationalize the risk, send the bill to the taxpayer,” she said. “This is a moral responsibility for our country to do.”

Pelosi also called the climate change bill awaiting passage in the Senate a moral issue as well as a national security, jobs and environmental issue.

“The nation that leads in the renewable energy economy will lead in the global economy, and I want America to be that nation,” she said. “Now we must work to get the bill passed in the United States Senate.”

Pelosi left the stage to rousing applause, but several protesters stuck around, still yelling through the loud music, “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim.

Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, stuck with the theme of the song as he took to the podium.

“What you just saw was not only grace under fire, it was substance. It was a great speech,” Hickey said. “That’s why she is our Speaker.”