Health care protests continue outside Upton's office
The largest demonstration yet outside Representative Fred Upton's St. Joe office happened Thursday afternoon, as locals were joined by demonstrators from Kalamazoo and Detroit.
Several hundred people chanting in unison and carrying signs marched from the corner of Lake Boulevard and Broad Street to Upton's office on Main Street in St. Joe on Thursday.
Most were protesting Upton's role in the American Health Care Act, which recently passed in the House in part because of an amendment Upton added that would provide some more funding for those with pre-existing conditions.
Unlike the many locally-organized demonstrations that have taken place outside the congressman's office since Donald Trump became president, Thursday's was largely organized by a group based in Kalamazoo.
"We usually do protests of Representative Upton in Kalamazoo, so we were really interested in partnering with some St. Joe groups to come to his hometown and to the other site of his district office to do a bigger protest, especially the week after this bill passed Congress to show that he just voted against his constituents," said Meredith Loomis Quinlan, a member of the Michigan People's Campaign, that organized the protest. "He just voted against our families, and...he’s playing politics and valuing that more than health care and the well-being of families in his district.”
Many local demonstrators from St. Joe and Benton Harbor -- who have consistently demonstrated outside Upton's office nearly every Tuesday for the last few months -- joined protesters who came from as far as Kalamazoo, Detroit and Mount Olive.
“I would tell him he’s a flip-flopper," said Joyce Whitt, a demonstrator from Benton Harbor, when asked what she would say to Upton if she had the chance. "I’m so sad he represents us. He has no heart. What happened to the moral ethical compass this country’s supposed to have? Shows me he has a lack of character.”
“The fact that I’m old and I need to have my health care assured and these guys are determined to rip it out of my hands and hand away billions to people who don’t need a nickel from me," said Neal Moran, a demonstrator from Berrien County, when asked why he keeps coming out to demonstrate.
The demonstrators essentially took over the section of Main Street Upton's office sits on for nearly an hour, with St. Joseph Department of Public Safety officers and Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey watching nearby.
Though entirely peaceful, not everyone supported the demonstration.
Lynn Brunner, a Benton Harbor resident, came up to ABC57's Taylor Popielarz and asked that her voice be heard.
“I’m so tired of [the demonstrations]," she said. "It’s so frustrating to me that I go to work every day and I’m trying to pay my bills and take care of things and this nonsense is going on constantly. If they have a complaint about Fred Upton, then handle it in a reasonable way – maybe speak to him, speak to the office – but this anti-Trump, anti-Republican, anti-American sentiment that we’re seeing all over the country, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting, it’s annoying, it’s disheartening.”
The demonstration wrapped up back at the corner of Lake Blvd. and Broad Street, where a few people gave personal testimonials about why they're against the American Health Care Act.
According to Upton's spokesman, the congressman is in St. Joe while the House is on recess, but he was home Thursday celebrating his father's 93rd birthday.
After our broadcast, Upton Spokesman Tom Wilbur sent us this statement:
"Fred stood up and took action to fix our broken healthcare system while increasing protections and securing $8 billion more in resources for those with pre-existing conditions in states that might apply for a waiver. Clearly, making substantive positive changes impacting those with pre-existing conditions rather than a simple, partisan yes or no vote continues to get the attention of liberal protest groups. We've been having respectful, engaging conversations with folks on these issues for some time but this was different. Busing folks in from Detroit, using bullhorns, and pounding on office windows generally doesn't leave a good impression on those one is trying to persuade. Regardless, as this process now moves to the U.S. Senate, Fred will continue to fight for Southwest Michigan's best interests and a better healthcare system for all."