LOS ANGELES — Waving handmade signs and chanting slogans, several hundred activists gathered in downtown Los Angeles March 23 for a rally and march to protest attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act under President Donald Trump.
The demonstration, organized by APLA Health and other organizations, was aimed at persuading lawmakers to oppose a move they said would be devastating for Southland residents.
Protesters gathered at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration building on West Temple Street and marched to the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building on East Temple Street, where speakers including City Councilman Gil Cedillo and county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, both Democrats, drew cheers from the enthusiastic crowd.
While the rally was unfolding, Republican leaders in Washington abruptly delayed a planned vote on the GOP health care bill as they struggled to find sufficient support to pass it. Republicans were at least eight votes short of winning enough backing for passage.
Led by a marching band of drummers, protesters walked down Temple Street hoisting signs reading “Save Our Health Care,” “Trumpcare No!” and “The ACA Saved My Life.”
Some dressed as patients in hospital gowns and dust masks, chanting “The rich get richer, the sick get sicker.”
Unemployed telemarketing worker Tawana Thomas, 35, explained what the loss of her coverage could mean for her family.
“If I didn’t have health care, I wouldn’t be able to hold a job,” the Lancaster mother of four said. “I can’t function at all without it.”
Thomas said she suffers from a nervous condition that causes seizures, a problem she said is controlled by the prescription drugs she receives through her ACA coverage.
Trump has called Obamacare a failure, citing increasing premiums, high deductibles resulting in higher out-of-pocket expenses and a shrinking number of participating insurers. He campaigned on a vow to repeal and replace Obamacare, but the GOP proposal has met with opposition from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which contends the proposed legislation doesn’t go far enough.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Trump swayed some members of the caucus during a negotiating session thanks to some concessions on specifics of the proposal, and he anticipates it will ultimately be approved.
But those hopes were dashed the next day when House Speaker Paul Ryan canceled a final vote on the Republican proposal.
Ridley-Thomas said the Affordable Care Act represents a lifeline that works well for many thousands of residents.
“The ACA has made a difference in literally thousands and thousands of lives,” the supervisor said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. … Mr. Trump, stop trying to ruin our lives.”
Taking his turn in front of the fired-up crowd near the federal courthouse, Cedillo said it was “immoral and heartless” of Republicans to attempt to repeal and replace the act.
“Health care is a God-given right for every working man and woman,” the councilman said, adding that a “spirit of evil” had overtaken Washington, D.C.