MANCHESTER, NH – A rally organized by Rights & Democracy NH filled the gymnasium at the YWCA on Sunday to standing-room only. The gathering of an estimated 500 people was part of a larger coordinated national response to Republican momentum to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office later this week.
A call to action by former Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, resulted in a larger turnout than initially expected, according to Rights & Democracy NH Field Representative, Kathy Staub.
Break-out sessions were held after the main rally, which included a simulcast of a rally in Michigan where Sanders spoke. Also, community leaders and representatives of New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation took turns speaking, including Elizabeth Ropp of Manchester, an acupuncturist and activist, who spoke about her personal mission to find a way to expand healthcare options for those suffering with addiction through political action.
Ropp said acupuncture is a low-cost, safe and effective treatment for those in recovery, and she is working toward changing New Hampshire laws so that practitioners – or anyone – can administer the treatment.
“I want to open as many pathways to recovery as possible,” said Ropp, who noted the state’s shameful “first in the nation” status for deadly fentanyl overdoses. She said she is working with state lawmakers to create legislation to make that possible, and urged others to get activated.
“For the first time, I feel empowered,” Ropp said.
Above, a Facebook live post from the rally with some of the featured speakers.
During the simulcast Sen. Sanders urged Americans to take action against the proposed cuts by Republicans to Social Security, Medicare, Planned Parenthood and The Affordable Care Act, by contacting state lawmakers. On Jan. 12 the U.S. Senate voted 51-48 to approve a budget resolution that could begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act, through what’s known as budget reconciliation. On Friday, the House passed the budget by vote of 227-198.
Thousands across the country answered the call Sunday by holding similar “Our First Stand” rallies during which a livestream of Sen. Sanders speaking at a Michigan rally was shared. The Manchester rally drew people from all over New Hampshire, including Dick and Sandy McIntire of Contoocook.
“One thing that’s noteworthy here is that we’re not political activists. We’ve never gone to rallies before,” said Dick McIntire.
“Nothing more than voting or donating to a candidate,” said Sandy McIntire.
“What brought us out today is fear, and common sense. We have concern for the direction our country is going, and concern for where Trump’s momentum is heading,” said Dick McIntire, a retired small business owner.
He and his wife agreed that they are more concerned about Trump’s style of leadership than the content of his message.
“We don’t even know what his policies are at this point,” said Sandy McIntire, a who wored as a director of human resources before retiring.
Over the same weekend President-Elect Trump said in an interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act with one that will provide “insurance for everybody,” as well as force drug companies to negotiate with the government to reduce prices on prescriptions.
No actual plan to replace the ACA has yet been introduced by Republicans.
One action step so far was a Jan. 17 event during which New Hampshire Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan participated in a roundtable discussion at Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinic in Manchester, to talk about how repealing the Affordable Care Act would specifically affect New Hampshire residents.
According to Staub, the rally Sunday is a first step in reinvigorating voters to stand up for their rights, including affordable health care for all.
“We collected commitment cards from over 150 people to work on committees, talk to their legislators and raise the public’s awareness of how the repeal of the Affordable Care Act will affect real people in NH,” Staub said. Anyone who would like to join us can sign up at our website RADNH.org.”