This past Saturday of Colorado Springs community once again came together for an activist rally, this time in support of healthcare protection. The “Protect our Healthcare Rally” took place in Acacia Park for two hours, beginning at 2 p.m. The rally was organized by Unite Colorado Springs, which formed around a year before the election and hit the ground running with protests just after the election. Since its inception, Unite Colorado Springs has been a dominant force in the activism scene ever since then. The group garners support via Facebook to organize and spread their events to the larger community. Additionally, Unite Colorado Springs often brings in other specialized activists groups to supplement their work.
The current board president of Unite Colorado Springs is 26-year-old Ryan Barry. While Barry was not able to attend the rally due to illness, he feels very passionate about the protection of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At just 16 years old, Barry was diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic condition that causes tumors and cysts to develop throughout his central nervous system. Surgery complications and rehabilitation processes have left him with temporary partial sensation loss in his legs, painful neuropathy, chemical burns that turned into a rare and painful skin condition, and general pain every day. The ACA changed Barry’s life forever as he no longer had to hide his diagnoses for fear of being denied coverage due to his pre-existing conditions. He was also guaranteed to stay on his parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26 before being transferred to Medicaid.
“Although the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect and could certainly use some reforms, it is far better than the system we had in the past,” said Barry. The prospect of the repeal of the ACA with no real plans for a replacement incites fear in many who rely on it.
Barry’s story is one filled with sentiment that millions of other Americans can sympathize with. Since the ACA was signed into law by former President Obama in 2010, healthcare in this country has been extended to over 16 million more people. Healthcare is just one of many issues Unite Colorado Springs has used to rally for a march, but there is overlap in the people who are showing up to protest. Many protesters have attended one march and were so energized by the passion that they decided to attend subsequent rallies.
Colorado Springs resident Tom Howes attended the march on Saturday after seeing it on Facebook. Howes canvases for the election every four years but has been especially involved in activism this past election. Howes graduated from Colorado College in 1980. He recalled a moment from junior high school during the time of the Vietnam War when he drew peace signs on his folders and was called communist by his classmates, and his teacher even threw away his folder. Since then, Howes and his family have adopted the hobby of making peace buttons that they distribute at rallies and to the local community. Howes attends the marches with his wife Beth Howes. They also attended the Women’s March following the election and the more recent “Stand with Our Muslim and Immigrant Neighbors” march. He found the Women’s March to be energizing, facilitated by a group of inspiring people. Between his teaching experience and rally turnout, he is excited to see the younger generations fired up. It “takes an evil like unjust war or unjust president to get people motivated—we can see an evil to unite against,” he said. Beth Howes is similarly grateful to be part of this age of activism. “[I am] proud that people aren’t afraid to speak up,” she said.
Another pair that attended the rally was Colorado Springs resident Brian McRoberts. He too wants to raise awareness about the ACA and make sure his voice is heard so that Congress will not repeal the legislation. McRoberts is “in opposition to the current elected president with almost everything he has proposed, specifically the environment, repeal of the ACA, and the desire to expand strategic and defense funding.” He absolutely plans to attend more activist rallies to increase awareness and resistance to the Trump administration’s agenda. “Civil protests are the best means to do that,” he said.
Unite Colorado Springs and those who have attended rallies have commented on how little resistance from the conservative community there has been. There are, of course, “internet trollers” hiding behind their screens to say negative things in the comments sections on social media websites, but aside from a few nasty comments here and there, there has not been much hostility at the rallies. Most of the feedback from the community in person has been positive.
Protesters mentioned how ACA certainly has its flaws and needs to be amended, but many people will be left in vulnerable positions if the policy is taken away with no real replacement. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation of such status that does not provide universal healthcare coverage. However, many find it energizing and empowering to see so much support for progressive action.