COLUMBIA - Sixteen protesters were ticketed for obstructing traffic Tuesday as they knelt, prayed and entreated South Carolina lawmakers to accept federal money and expand Medicaid under the nation's new health care law.
"We are here to give thanks," began the Rev. Tom Summers, a retired United Methodist minister. He led a group of nearly two dozen protesters who knelt in a roadway leading to the South Carolina Statehouse's underground parking garage.
Many in the group held signs reading, "Expand Medicaid" and "Morality is not Partisan," as they knelt in the roadway.
Told by a Columbia police officer that the group was obstructing traffic, they rose after a bit and stood aside quietly as he arranged for them to show identification and be ticketed for a May 2 court appearance.
The gathering, organized by the South Carolina Progressive Network, was the group's third "Truthful Tuesday" protest in an attempt to call attention to lawmakers' refusal to take the federal funds and expand health care coverage in the state.
Those who oppose the Medicaid expansion argue there are better ways to get health care to poor people than accept federal money that may not always be there.
"It's a devastating thing not to pay to expand Medicaid. More than 1,300 people are likely to die in 2014," said Summers, a 79-year-old Columbia resident, as he held his green ticket. "I think it is an immoral thing."
Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey said 16 supporters planned on being ticketed, while several others attended in support.
Stephen Wade, a retired Marine Corps military policeman, said he'd joined in because he believes medical care should be expanded.
"This is a decision motivated by politics and not what is best for the people," the 60-year-old veteran said. "This decision will affect families across South Carolina."
Daniel DeWeese, 26, of nearby Lexington, said he'd taken part in an earlier Medicaid protest, and intended to do so again even though he plans on working for a state agency on mental health issues, and an arrest could put that employment in jeopardy.
"I feel it is my duty as a citizen to advocate for this issue," said DeWeese, who said he'd just completed an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a graduate degree in counseling. "We are here to articulate the truth."