Supporters await the release of disabled demonstrators jailed for occupying Cory Gardner’s office

Jose Torres-Vega

UPDATE: The disabled demonstrators were released from jail early Saturday morning— the last one leaving at around 2 a.m., according to media reports. “The protesters say they will return to Gardner’s office,” reported CBS Denver. The Denver sheriff’s office said more than three dozen others were waiting to be processed when the disabled protestors arrived at the jail. Fox 31 reported: “From the time protesters arrived into custody until being released, another 181 people were processed and 130 were released, the sheriff’s department said.”

DENVER — Supporters of about 10 disabled Coloradans arrested last night for occupying Republican Cory Gardner’s downtown office are holding a vigil outside a Denver detention center awaiting their release from jail. 

Gardner is one of the 13 U.S. senators who helped craft a healthcare bill President Donald Trump hopes will replace Obamacare.

The disabled activists, many of them in wheelchairs, spent 58 hours in Gardner’s Denver office lobby urging the senator not to vote for a bill they say could force them into nursing homes, or worse, because of its drastic cuts to Medicaid.

Police arrested 10 of them Thursday after receiving a signed complaint from Gardner’s office, according to media reports that cited police. 

“According to Cory Gardner, the First Amendment only applies to two-and-a-half days,” said Josh Winkler, 36, from a wheelchair outside the justice center Friday. A quadriplegic from Aurora, Winkler is a part of ADAPT, a Denver-based national advocacy group that organized the sit-in.

Related: Disabled activists arrested during healthcare protest in Cory Gardner’s office

In downtown Denver on the Friday before the July 4 holiday, supporters waved signs reading “Our Homes Not Nursing Homes,” and “Save Our Medicaid.”

Carrie Ann Lucas, one of the demonstrators who was arrested — she was not jailed because of health reasons— said she was hit with a separate charge, something about interfering with an officer, because she did not operate her wheelchair when police asked. Lucas said it was ironic she stayed out of jail because the detention center should have been able to accommodate her even if she had a ventilator.

“I should be getting to sit with my fellow activists,” she said.

The demonstrators could be released today if they post bail, said a spokesman for the Denver sheriff’s department.

Supporters have been dropping off food and offering encouragement throughout the day.

Jose Torres-Vega, who suffers from a musculoskeletal disease, said he worries if the healthcare bill passes more disabled Americans on Medicaid will end up in nursing homes or other institutions.

“Aren’t we supposed to be allowed equality and equity?” he said. “You want us to be of service to you? Of society? Let us.”

Those arrested were Lucas, Lonnie Smith, Jordan Sibayan, Robin Stephens, Dawn Russell, Jacqueline Mitchell, Dawn Howard and two others, according to media.