Western PA Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare www.WPaSinglePayer.org
Constituents denied entry to Congressman’s Office following Medicare Birthday Party
For Immediate Release: August 1, 2008
Contacts: Rosemary Prostko 412-854-0517; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Fox, Co-Chair, Western PA Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare
PITTSBURGH—Over 400 people filled the Teamster’s Social Hall in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, July 30th, for a lunchtime celebration of the 43rd anniversary of the passage of the Federal Medicare Act. The event, sponsored by State Senator Jim Ferlo and co-sponsored by the Western PA Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare, Healthcare4allPA, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, and SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, was free and open to the public.
Elected officials—local, state, and national—had also been invited to the event. While members of Congress were in D.C., representatives were sent from the offices of Senator Bob Casey, and Congressmen Mike Doyle and Jason Altmire. Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Tim Murphy did not send a representative nor return follow-up calls requesting attendance, although Murphy’s Democratic opponent this November, Steve O’Donnell, did attend and called for “universal, not-for-profit, single-payer healthcare.”
The mission of the celebration was to bring attention to the importance of protecting traditional Medicare from privatization and to advocate for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, HR 676, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan), with 91 co-sponsors, including Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh).
Following the celebration, Rosemary Prostko, a senior citizen and volunteer with the Western PA Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare, headed south to the Mt. Lebanon district office of her U.S. Representative, Tim Murphy, where she was joined by three other supporters. Their goal: to deliver an enormous “Happy Birthday Medicare/Support Improved Medicare for All” cookie, visible through hard plastic, along with single-payer information and an over-sized Medicare Birthday card containing hundreds of signatures in support of single-payer legislation.
What follows is Rosemary Prostko’s account:
F. and I arrived at Rep. Murphy's office at about 3:00 P.M. We were soon joined by two 60+ year old female constituents of Congressional District 18.
The four of us approached the office with the camera on but not recording. I pushed the buzzer. A very young staffer opened the door a crack. I very pleasantly said, "Since no one from your office could attend Senator Ferlo's Birthday Party for Medicare we brought the party to you!" He slammed the door saying "We do not allow videotaping." I shouted through the door "We will turn the camera off!" He disappeared into the darkness of the office.
Quite surprised we looked at each other!! What should we do now?
We decided to proceed to State Senator Pippy's office two blocks down the street. We arrived at the Senator's office--same materials, a second cookie, and entered. The person at the desk was very gracious. F. did ask if he could tape and was told "Yes, of course". Did not even seem to understand why we asked... The whole episode took about three to four minutes and was very pleasant.
As we left Senator Pippy's office (three 60+ year old ladies and 45ish F.) we were approached by TWO MT.LEBANON POLICE OFFICERS!!! They were very polite but asked what we were doing and if we had ID. As compliant U.S. citizens doing nothing wrong, the others did as requested. I gave no id (remember this) because I had left everything in my car to carry the cookie/materials. We asked why they needed the info and they said they needed it for their "report". Reports were made on all complaints. The Officer doing the talking said we had frightened the staff at Rep. Murphy's office and they were investigating the complaint. They said they would phone the Rep.'s office and tell them who we were and our intent to deliver a cookie and written materials.
M. and L. had run out of time so they left. F. and I went back up the street. F., as a non-constituent and the "cameraman," decided to stay away. The unmarked police car was in front of the office. I entered and rang the buzzer. Two staff people looked out at me and once more faded into the darkness of the office.
I went to the Police Officer in his car. I said "Please come to the office with me so they are not afraid.” He said "I called and gave them your information. They are a private business and they do not have to admit you.” I of course responded "They are not a private business they are the site of my government representative!"
His reply once more was they did not have to let me in. I said I thought he was giving more service to them than to me. He replied if I felt threatened he would do the same to protect me as he was doing for them. I asked if he felt I was a threat to anyone. He smiled but did not answer.
Remember, I did not give my name or any ID. This morning Rep. Murphy himself called my home to "see what happened". I wonder where he got my name? I will be going to the Mt. Lebanon Police Station to review the "REPORT".
My friend L. is now afraid she will not be able to fly next week!