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Disability-rights group says it wants to sue Little Rock police

by Gavin Lesnick | September 17, 2014 at 7:04 a.m. | Updated September 17, 2014 at 9:55 a.m.
Little Rock police work to determine the appropriate charge before arresting ADAPT protesters Tuesday afternoon on Capital Avenue. Police said four of the demonstrators refused orders to leave the street.

A national disability-rights group says it wants to sue the Little Rock Police Department over how officers handled two days of protests this week that resulted in the arrest of a number of demonstrators.

ADAPT, which is asking Arkansas politicians to support a program that would increase funding for disability services for Medicaid enrollees, said in a statement on its website that the arrests constituted a "new low in police behavior."

More than 50 protesters from the group have been arrested in demonstrations Monday and Tuesday in Little Rock, though all were cited and released. Four of them were arrested Tuesday afternoon along Capitol Avenue when they refused orders to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk, police said.

The ADAPT statement from group organizer Mike Oxford seemed to take issue with those arrests in particular, noting that the sidewalks in Little Rock are not ideal for wheelchairs and can cause them to "get stuck or tip over." Many of the ADAPT demonstrators and a number of those who have been arrested are in wheelchairs.

"We have repeatedly tried to explain to the Little Rock Police that the sidewalks jeopardize many people in our group," Oxford wrote. "Many of the officers have quietly agreed with us that they are a safety hazard yet the city and police administration insist that we must stay on the side walk 'no matter what.'

"We know ADAPT can be frustrating, but we don't understand the Little Rock Police’s unprofessional 'pay- back' attitude. It is clear we have angered you and you have decided to get even by threatening our safety, forcing us to use dangerous paths of travel, and violating our civil rights."

The statement says the group is now looking to file a class-action lawsuit for "massive, systemic violations of our civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act."

"We regret being forced to do this," Oxford wrote. "So many in the fine City of Little Rock have been so very friendly and helpful, but you leave us no other recourse when you bully us and endanger us."

A Little Rock Police Department spokesman said the department has acted appropriately in its interactions with the group.

"The Little Rock Police Department has and will continue to treat members of ADAPT with dignity and respect," Sgt. Cassandra Davis said in an emailed statement. "We have not been served with any lawsuits concerning our actions over the last two days."

ADAPT has been demonstrating to urge Arkansas lawmakers to adopt the Community First Choice Option, which was established under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as "Obamacare." The option, if adopted, would provide increased federal funding for state Medicaid programs for attendant services programs, which help disabled persons live more independently.


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