Obamacare repeal: Berkshire residents oppose ‘cruel attempt to take us backwards’

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By Tuesday, Sep 26 News  4 Comments
Terry Cowgill
Kristen Winsett and her mother, Sharon, along with Laura Rosenthal, all of Pittsfield, dressed as zombies during a standout against TrumpCare that took place in Pittsfield's Park Square on Monday.

Pittsfield — Berkshire County residents are known for their activism. And lately Park Square in Pittsfield has been ground zero for all manner of resistance to the Trump administration’s policies.

About 100 protesters showed up for the rally at Park Square in Pittsfield. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Yesterday the cause was quite simple: opposition to the effort of the president and the Republican leadership to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that covered tens of millions of Americans who were previously without health insurance.

“This one is more important,” former state Rep. Sherwood Guernsey, referring to the litany of complaints progressives have against Trump, told the Edge. “This will affect millions of people. There are so many people who don’t understand what it’s like not to have healthcare. The pressure against this should be intense.”

Former state Rep. Sherwood Guernsey, bullhorn in hand, emceed the event. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Guernsey and the other speakers were using a bullhorn in order to be heard over the din of late-afternoon city noises often punctuated by honks of approval in response to the signs carried by the approximately 100 people at the rally.

With the exception of state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, who was tending to business elsewhere, Berkshire County’s entire state legislative delegation was at the protest rally, which was co-sponsored by the Four Freedoms Coalition, a nonpartisan coalition of more than 140 local organizations, and the Berkshire County branch of the NAACP. Pignatelli later told the Edge he had a previous engagement and that his absence should in no way be interpreted as a lack of support for the cause, which he embraces without reservation

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jay Gonzalez exhorted the crowd as former state Rep. Sherwood Guernsey cheered him on. Photo: Terry Cowgill

And there was a surprise visit by gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez, a former cabinet member in the administration of former Gov. Deval Patrick. Guernsey introduced Gonzalez, who is running for the Democratic nomination to unseat Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in 2018.

And there was also Jessica and Alexis Shandor, who related a personal story about their own healthcare. See video of Gonzalez’s message and the Shandors’ story below:

 

 

Gonzalez, who served as Patrick’s secretary of administration and finance from 2009 to 2013, said he later served as chairman of the board of the Massachusetts Health Connector “that made us the first state in the nation to provide near-universal health insurance to the people of Massachusetts.”

“I know, as you do, that President Trump and the Republicans in Congress are trying to take us backwards,” said Gonzalez, who advocated for a single-payer system. “Make no mistake: If this passes, we will lose billions of dollars in federal funding, hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts will lose coverage [and] they will have less access to the health services they need, be less healthy and we will have communities that are less strong … We need to fight this cruel attempt to take us backwards.”

In her remarks, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, alluded to the zombie theme of the event. Attendees were encouraged to wear black, dress as zombies and bring headstone-shaped signs to emphasize the danger the proposed healthcare bill embodies.

Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, tells protesters about a recent phone call she received from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Photo: Terry Cowgill

“They’re trying to bring something back from the dead that will kill a lot of people,” Farley-Bouvier said of the latest GOP attempt to repeal Obamacare.

Farley-Bouvier said she recently received a birthday phone call from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who told her that she and others are “fighting for healthcare because it’s a basic human right” and “You should know that your representatives in Washington are fighting for you.”

State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, laments the injustice of causing the insured to lose benefits with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Photo: Terry Cowgill

“I scratch my head and my new beard,” added state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield,, whose speech was marked by technical difficulties with the bullhorn. “They want to remove things that are covered: pre-existing conditions and prescription drugs?”

“It seems like every week there’s some outrage we need to fight against,” added state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru. “It’s time to be on the offensive … We need universal healthcare. It allows entrepreneurship and it’s just good, common sense.”

State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, said ‘it’s time to be on the offensive’ against those would take away their benefits. Photo: Terry Cowgill

In brief interviews with an Edge reporter, several demonstrators echoed the sentiments of their elected representatives.

“Health comes first,” said Marietta Rapetti Cawse of Pittsfield. “It’s important for us to be generous. We need to have good healthcare so our families can learn and be well.”

Al Blake of Becket spoke of the “injustice of the healthcare bill.” Laura Rosenthal of Pittsfield said that, even though “the ACA is not perfect,” she wanted “to get rid of this crazy repeal” and later enact “Medicare for all.”

Marietta Rapetti Cawse of Pittsfield spoke to a supporter as Graham Dean of the Hoping Machine played his guitar behind her. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Jennifer Holey was partially dressed as a zombie and carrying a sign that said, among other things, “Trump Care Is Death Care” and “Kill The Bill.” Holey is involved with 5calls.org, an organization that encourages voters to call government officials to get action on the issues they care about.

Kristen Winsett and her mother, Sharon, both of Pittsfield, took the prize for looking most like zombies. Dressed in black, both had fake bloody teeth, hair dyed black and red liquid smeared over their faces. Their signs were in the shape of headstones and announced they were dying of “pre-existing conditions” and of heatstroke protesting for “affordable healthcare.”

Al Blake of Becket spoke of the ‘injustice of the healthcare bill.’ Photo: Terry Cowgill

“I’ve had a brain tumor since I was 12,” Sharon explained. “And my mother has thyroid cancer.”

Guernsey said Congress is starting to feel the heat: “They know people are angry. This was foisted on us with no hearing and no CBO score.”

Later that evening, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced that she could not in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill, as the repeal effort was known, bringing to three the number of GOP senators who have announced they would vote against it, effectively killing the current bill. See video below:

 

The Hoping Machine singers from the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington rounded out the event by singing several songs, including the Pete Seeger song “If I Had A Hammer.” See video below:


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4 Comments   Add Comment

  1. John says:

    Interesting posters, especially with regard to ‘affordable’ healthcare. Therein lies the problem….costs of healthcare continue to explode. (While I listen on the radio to ravenous attorneys offer free help to sue your doctor or hospital…)
    Now, had Obamacare addressed the cost problem, government would not be intervening. Nope, now the root issue is far worse (while BMC nurses strike, with experienced nurses reported to make 116,000 a year, and want more).
    The federal government has placed each American is in debt over $61,000 a year with current spending levels. Family of 4 $250,000….
    So, the expectation is that the debt per American (and interest payments) increases yet more? The system will break sooner or later….

    Just perhaps, the cost issue of medical care needs addressed.

  2. Michael Vincent Bushy says:

    It’s really shocking and saddening that in such an exhaustive article about a Healthcare bill that would severely hurt the disabled community (and will invariably be attempted again and again), you have completely erased the one disabled voice involved.
    Readers not in attendance wouldn’t have any idea that the Berkshire Brigade actually put forth an effort to include disabled people in the dialogue (something many organizations are not willing to do), because you’ve completely omitted any mention of our statement.
    This is ableism and poor journalism. Disabled voices are constantly silenced, and you have made the decision to further the oppression of the disabled community. I don’t know if this slight was the result of poor reporting or editing, but it should be corrected if you wish to be viewed as a legitimate news source.

  3. Terry Cowgill says:

    Yours was not the only voice of the disabled at the rally. There is a video embedded in the article that tells the story of Jessica and Alexis Shando. Sorry that you’re angry that we did not get to your story. It was an eventful rally and there was lots to report.

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