(CNN)Over a thousand chanting activists walked a lap around the Capitol building Wednesday evening to protest the American Health Care Act. The march was part of a three-day “People’s Filibuster,” co-organized by more than 19 groups, including the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and American Federation of Labor.
“We had so many patient advocates show up in force,” Planned Parenthood federal campaigns director Graeme Joeck said. “We hope this sends a clear message that our voices have put a delay, and that this bill will not last.”
Philadelphia resident Signe Espinoza, 24, kicked off the post-march rally by sharing her personal health care experience on stage.
“I rely on Medicaid. I have relied on Medicaid for a really long time, and my parents rely on Medicaid. If this vote passes, millions of people just like me will be affected,” Espinoza said.
Some protesters held printed white fliers with people’s faces and the words “I will lose my health care.” Designed by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, these fliers are part of a campaign that asks Americans to share personal stories about the impact of health care on their lives.
“I think we realized that health care was going to be the first issue on the chopping block,” CAP Action Fund campaign director Emily Tisch Sussman said. “People had to see themselves in the victims, because unfortunately, so many people would become the victims. So we started working on the story bank immediately after the election, and it’s only grown since then.”
Forty-eight members of the House of Representatives also gathered on the Capitol steps to don black veils in “mourning” for Medicaid cuts. Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore organized the demonstration, according to her communications director Eric Harris.
“The 22 million people who would lose care because of the repeal of Obamacare — that only scratches the surface of the people who would be harmed with a structural change in Medicaid,” Moore said, citing numbers in the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of the Senate bill.
These lawmakers and their colleagues from the Senate soon crossed the east lawn to voice their support, including Sens. Ron Wyden, Patty Murray, Chuck Schumer, Brian Schatz, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Many more lawmakers mingled in the crowd, listening to stories and sharing their thoughts on the future of the AHCA. As he left the stage, Booker articulated the legislative challenges ahead.
“Look, it’s the start of a very tough week to 10 days ahead of us,” Booker said. “There’s nothing given. We’re fighting against very powerful forces, very entrenched interests, very wealthy interests.”
Democrats — and some Republicans — have not been included in health care negotiations up until this point. But given Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision Tuesday to delay the chamber’s AHCA vote, Schatz expressed hope for bipartisan cooperation in the future.
“I think there’s enough momentum on the Republican side internally to make (compromise) a more realistic possibility than it was at the beginning of the week. Whether Leader McConnell decides to continue with his partisan approach or not remains to be seen,” Schatz said.
Pelosi praised the protests going on across the country against the measure. “It’s great. It’s absolutely great. It’s a drumbeat across America,” she said. “It’s an organizing, a mobilization that’s historic.”
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