Wow! What a day! What a crazy glorious day for the cause! What am I talking about? The Car Rally held today in Annapolis. Ken came up with the idea that we should have back to back rallies. Too many lawmakers were expressing support, but the HB1335 bill was stalled in the House Rules committee. Since the legislature is only in session for 90 days, it was imperative that we make our presence felt and that our issue was circulated. Ken talked with lawmakers sympathetic to our cause and got some dates when lawmakers would be in office. The first rally was impressive. Ken wanted to have groups of cars converge onto the Governor’s mansion from various routes. Unfortunately, the Capitol police became aware that we were having a rally on Tuesday and blocked all routes leading to the Governor’s mansion, so the cavalcade of cars became disjointed for a time. When we were able to join together and line up, the car rally was quite effective.
Surprisingly we had just as many members show up for day two as for day one of our two-day event. Since Capital Police knew we would be there, Ken decided to use the same route that was used on Tuesday. The day started cloudy and with a faint drizzle of rain that compelled a lot of people to put signs on the inside of their cars . We started towards Bladen street and the Capitol around 8:30am and began our succession of loops. Our route took us up Bladen street in front of the Senate building, a left turn in front of Lawyer’s Mall onto College Avenue, a left turn behind the House building (St Johns Street) and a left turn on Calvert and a left turn back to Bladen Street. I cannot count how many times we made this trip with our Radio Ads blaring, horns honking and Twisted Sister shouting, “We’re not going to take it anymore” to the dancing moves of what appeared to be a homeless person who had taken shelter in the bus stop on Bladen Street. Of course, the noise attracted onlookers, the song attracted singers and the radio ads attracted attention. Well last week, we caught the Senate President, Bill Ferguson, by surprise. This week we were surprised by a sighting of the Governor, walking up Lawyer’s Mall with two protection officers, holding a briefcase and walking with an air of self-importance that appeared contrived. (Of course, it was so apropos that Twisted Sister was blasting our theme.) However, the Governor did not turn around. He walked, eyes forward not giving a hint of acknowledgement that Maryland Citizens who were former State employees were railing against members of the Maryland Government that included him for the sneaky way they eliminated an earned benefit.
After about an hour of circling, we had the pleasure of seeing WDVM camera crew and reporter park behind the House building on St John Street. Startled by our protest, a cameraman jumped out and began filming our procession. (You can rest assured we made a lot of noise then.) Capitol police were constantly waving us to keep moving so we hoped against hope that somehow we would capture their interest to pursue the story. We were rewarded when about 15 minutes later, that same cameraman came outside the front of the House building to film us coming up Bladen street. Not only that, but it appears another camera crew was located at the end of Lawyer’s Mall and had set up his camera to catch our cavalcade of protest of cars. Prior to turning onto St. Johns Street, a third cameraman was there setting up a stationary camera to catch our protest as we rounded the corner. I slowed the car (did I mention I was driving?). At last week’s rally, Ken aggravated his sciatic nerve in his leg with the starting and stopping (moving his leg from the brake to accelerator to the brake – you get the picture) during the rally. He was unable to walk normally the next day and almost a week later he was still experiencing pain. So, I rented a SUV and led the rally Tuesday and Wednesday while Ken remarked on my driving, braking and parking skills from the passenger seat. LOL. But I digress. Ken told the cameraman that we were making one more round before leaving so he had plenty of time to set up his camera. Boy, were we wrong. About 20 feet up St Johns’ street I see flashing police lights in my side mirror and moved over to the side of the road, before coming to a stop. Yup it finally happened – the Capital Police were making their presence felt.
An officer walked up to my car and said that I was being stopped due to excessive use of an emergency device. He was talking about my horn which I had used with unbridled glee when our eyes spied the Governor of Maryland. I acknowledged my liberal use of the car horn as I gave him my license and registration. He walked to his vehicle (did I mention that there were at three other police cars in front or beside me?) Well, we were surrounded! (I guess we were supposed to be intimidated – more on that later.) Anyway, the officer walked away with my license and then I had the pleasure of meeting the Chief of the Capital Police. I guess there was another vehicle that he jumped out of (I can’t remember- all I can say is police cars were everywhere). Well he comes over to the car and introduces himself and says that because of all the noise we were making that we lawmakers were being inconvenienced ( he didn’t actually say that, but you get the point.) He acknowledged our first amendment right to free speech and assembly while telling us that voicing our frustration through the use of horn was not covered (yeah right). He did not talk about Twisted Sister blaring, the radio ads blaring, just the horn. (yeah right). He didn’t talk about anyone else’s car but mine (I guess all the noise of their horns channeled into my horn. Lol) He said we had made our point. That the Governor heard us last week, yesterday and today. He said the Governor and lawmakers are aware of who we are and what we are fighting for. (In other words, he was saying- you made your point and annoyed the hell out of the Governor and lawmakers. Now they want peace and quiet. Lol). Of course, while we were talking Ken was doing recognizance. How about rallying without cars? Can you use the megaphone? He asked questions regarding use of wheelchairs and walkers in the crosswalks, speakers at the Lawyer’s Mall, and the use of hazards. Essentially, here was the Chief of Capitol Police what would they allow? Amazing, he was already planning his next rally while we hadn’t even finished this one! It appears that the Capitol Police had gotten orders – make them go away. Intimidate them so they will not come back. LOL. Fat chance. If we don’t come back that means its okay to that diabetics die because they can’t afford their insulin. Its okay state retirees to die without medication. Not in this lifetime. We will be back.
In the meantime, the officer kept coming back and forth – telling me that he was just going to issue me a warning. Of course, by this time, I was over it. Give me my license, this warning and let us go our merry way. Sigh. Of course, it didn’t work like that. It took so long, that our car rally protestors got out of their cars, began walking in the streets while wondering what the hell is going on? Another police car then came up the street and parked diagonally in front of me and the other police car. When the police officer came back to the car, they asked me to come with them. This is when Ken stepped up (did I tell you that intimidation doesn’t work when you are fighting for what is right, just and true? Well now the police met Ken Fitch.) Wait a minute, he said. I am her security. She is not leaving the car unless I go with her. The officer apologized and said that the hold up was because of the printer inside the police car did not work and I needed to be advised of the charges. Since the charges were placed in the computer in the car, I had to be given the opportunity to read them before I could be released. I told Ken I would be fine and got out of my car and walked over to the police car. I was directed to sit in the car, which I did and was advised of the charges on the warning ticket that couldn’t be printed. LOL. Some things you just can’t make up. Anyway, as I was going through this and I began talking to the officers. I told them - you know we are fighting for you. They began asking me questions. I told them that if they got injured in the line and had to retire, they will not have prescription drug coverage. Shocked is the word for the expression on their faces. Worry - responses like – I didn’t hear about this, you know the drill. Anyway, when I got back to my car, I gave one police officer a card and told them if they wanted more information to look up www.unitedwematter.com.
When we got back to Grauls, I jumped out of the car and began waving flags, shouting WOOHOO! WE DID IT! WE HAVE GOTTEN THEIR ATTENTION! They know our issue and now they know that we are not going away. I would like to say that during this whole situation, the Capitol police were professional and courteous. I would venture to say that if left to them we could have drove around the State Capitol until our wheels fell off. So someone or various someones’ had enough power to get the Chief of the Capitol Police to stop our protesting. That tells me we have made headway. That Ken’s instincts were right – that persistence pays off. We must capitalize on this as quickly as we can and up the pressure. What are your thoughts?
Remember – WE MATTER
Ken Fitch and I wish to send a very personal thank you for all those who made this possible. You made Annapolis hear our voices! These members were willing to stand, willing to fight for what is right and did it on behalf of thousands. It is a real honor and privilege to fight for your prescription drug coverage alongside you. It is through your persistence that we will prevail. I wish more members would participate in reinstating this benefit like you do.
Clara & Anthony Agro
Bruce & Vicki Bozman
Jean & Bud Eckstorm
Barb & Jim Hall
Lorraine & Ron Hart
Phylis & Robin Roberts
Ann Squeaky Sams
Karen Verbeke Shealey
Deb Hill & Ken Fitch