"Do People With Disabilities Sometimes Wear Orange?"
On Sunday, November 27 2011, Mike Reynolds, the web master for Ability Maine, ROSC and Breath and Shadow, was arrested at Governor Lepage's mansion in Augusta, Maine. Reynolds was participating in the Occupy Maine protest, as a part of the now nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement. After his brief incarceration, Reynolds agreed to talk with us.
Bns: What made you decide to be a part of the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement in Maine?
MR: Well, it was actually a pretty easy decision, since most of my friends were directly involved in the prep of the Occupy Maine movement. I had some real issues with some aspects of the OWS movement (namely how they were seriously bigoted towards homeless folks and how they started to use Guy Fawkes masks.) Occupy Augusta was different, It was much more a mixture of folks that were doing targeted events and getting some great media coverage and even worked with the Governor on a food drive exactly three weeks prior. Then, after Thanksgiving there was an order to vacate in spite of the fact that there were really good communications with Capitol Police. There were a number of people with disabilities involved with various parts of Augusta’s Occupy Movement.
BnS: What was the protest like in Augusta?
MR: It started at Capitol park and went up to the Blaine House, where Governor LePage lives. He was away. It was peaceful, someone made a snowman and a tent was placed on his lawn. There were over 100 folks there. There was some pretty nifty signs, chanting etc. The rally received front page news coverage on every daily newspaper the next day when nine people were arrested as an act of civil disobedience.
Bns: From the perspective of a person with a disability, how do you feel about our government and its policies in regards to people and corporations?
MR: This could be a book, but I think it’s absurd to think that the government really does much for people with disabilities. The primary way of enforcing the ADA is to sue, do you really want to sue your employer when they fail to accommodate you or do you want to keep your job so you can pay your bills etc. It’s also ridiculous when an individual with Cerebral Palsy wins a lawsuit that is a class action lawsuit to get out of a nursing home and it takes nine months to find a suitable place for them to live. And we wonder why Maine has a huge budget shortfall.
BnS: How long were you there before being arrested, and how did the police treat you?
MR: I was covering the protest for Ability Maine and taking photos, I decided while covering the protest to get arrested. I gave my camera to a friend. It may have taken ten minutes from arrest to getting in the paddy wagon. The police were fine and I was anxious but let them know I had muscle spasms and was in no way trying to resist arrest. I also have an incontinence issue which requires me to have an ostomy bag and an adult diaper and that could have been a real issue with all the pat downs, but I was treated fine. I was charged with criminal trespassing and failure to disperse. I was bailed out by a friend for $60 dollars (Thanks Paul!). My bail conditions require me to stay away from the Blaine House and not to occupy (meaning erect a structure or camp overnight) neither of which I’d want to do anyway.
Additionally, on November 30th, Capitol Police served me with a trespass notice that prevented me from going to any state administered property, including the court where I was to be arraigned in January. That order ended up being discussed in an editorial where the ACLU of Maine called it “unconstitutional” in the Portland Phoenix. It has all been a bit overwhelming, but the order was amended on December 15th to basically mirror my bail conditions. This is my first time being arrested.
Bns: Do you have further plans to participate in the occupy Wall Street movement?
MR: I am interested in remaining active. I’d love to go to the GA meeting in April in DC, but I’ll see how my schedule looks then.