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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

What I Learned Participating in Direct Action Against Healthcare Cuts

By Anna Phearman, NCIL Policy Intern

“Hey Mom! I’m just calling to let you know that I am okay, but I’ve been arrested.” Just the call you want to get from your twenty-year-old daughter, right? As it turns out, my mom was far from thrilled by this news. It took some time, explanation, and several rounds of, “No Mom, I didn’t actually go to jail, this is the equivalent of a speeding ticket,” but, eventually I was able to convey that this arrest was much more than the act of a rebellious teenager. It was a growing and learning experience. It was me (and 181 others) standing up for something I am deeply passionate about: healthcare as a human right.

Anna Phearman, Kings Floyd, and Hindley Williams wait to be processed after being arrested at the ADAPT Action against the Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill. Anna and Kings hands are cuffed with zip ties. Photo credit: Play and Ideas.

Photo credit: Play and Ideas.

You might ask how on earth you can learn something at a protest (of all places?!). I, for one, thought the very same thing until I participated in an ADAPT protest of the Graham-Cassidy bill.

The reality is that during this protest and the events following, I learned more than I ever have in a classroom. I learned what it means to be caring while watching people pass around snacks to complete strangers upon hearing that they were hungry. I saw activists sharing water and personal stories alike, and learned the strength of commonalities. Differences didn’t matter; no matter the ability, age, race, or religion, there was a sense of togetherness and caring for others. I learned what it means to be passionate, truly passionate, through people who had journeyed from all around the country, scraped up money for travel, taken days off work, and woken up at 4:00 a.m. in order to protest and make visible just how much their healthcare matters to them. 

These were people risking their own well-being in the present so that in the future they (and the next generations) could afford the medical care they need. They were looking beyond the instant gratification of sleeping in or extra money in the savings account and toward the future for the greater good. I saw people humbly caring for friends and strangers alike and learned just how amazing the human race can be. These were some of the purest people I have ever met; kind and compassionate, fierce and strong. I learned that my actions can have a huge impact on the world around me, and most importantly on my lawmakers. Through this, I learned that I have the strength within me to be a powerful force for change. I learned that I cannot and will not stop fighting.

But, most of all, I learned just how much the disability community is a force to be reckoned with. We are an incredibly powerful group of change makers. While participating in civil disobedience was the way to this realization for me, I recognize that this is not the route for everyone. I do not share this story with the intent to pressure others to participate in civil disobedience. Rather, I encourage you to find your own path and once you have done so, to act on it. Through defeating the Skinny Repeal Bill AND the Graham-Cassidy Bill, we have changed the course of history and made the world a better place. We will relentlessly continue to do so.

I urge you to stand up, find your path, and fight back; you are a force to be reckoned with.


  1. Dennis Burgess says:

    This is truly inspirational and a great message of encouragement and hope for the entire disability community.

  2. James Turner says:

    Yes! Anna, I hope your narrative will encourage others to move outside their comfort zone and do as you did, as direct action is such an important facet of this movement. Events like this, as you now know and illustrate, can help initiate a sea-change and mold us into better activists and advocates, citizens, and human beings in general. “I urge you to stand up, find your path, and fight back; you are a force to be reckoned with.” Hell yes Anna! Rise up and fight and I’ll rise up with you!

    Up ADAPT!

    In solidarity,


  4. Dr. Ted Mauro says:

    I wish there was another way since an arrest record follows you the rest of your life. With that said, it is so sad that this is what it had to come to. I apologise to you and them that we have fallen so far.

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