A woman whose friends call her Miss B stood in front of the Statehouse steps Saturday afternoon and yelled at a cardboard cutout of Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana.
“I would just ask you to grow a pair,” she said.
Miss B, otherwise known as Melissa Biddinger, came from Bloomington on Saturday to join about 200 protesters in Indianapolis. The rally was organized by Our Revolution Indy, a coalition that sprang from Sen. Bernie Sanders’, I-Vermont, campaign for president. Attendees came to protest the repeal of former President Barack Obama’s health care act, held up signs, and endured the snow and harsh wind.
Rex Riddle, an event coordinator, said he invited Young to attend the rally and hear his constituents’ concerns, but the congressman was a no-show. Instead, protesters got the chance to vent their frustrations at his cardboard cutout after speakers riled them up.
“He was invited,” Riddle said. “I want that on the record. We think that’ll send a message to him that he should hold himself accountable.”
Several speakers and attendees alluded to the fact that Young never seems to be available to hear his constituents’ concerns.
“Has anyone seen Todd?” one protester yelled.
“Todd Young, here I come. Why have you been AWOL?” someone responded.
As Congress moves through a bill that will repeal “Obamacare,” news outlets and concerned constituents speculate how many people will lose insurance and even die as a result. They worry Republicans don’t have an adequate replacement plan ready to go.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that according to a presentation given to state governors during the weekend the repeal would cause tens of thousands of people to lose coverage due to not being able to afford it. A Washington Post headline says repealing “Obamacare” will kill more than 43,000 people every year.
“People will die,” said Cheryl Laux of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit that pushes Obama’s agenda. “This is not funny. People will die.”
The crowd was rowdy and interactive as they broke out in chants, yelled and booed.
One protester’s sign said “GOP plan = get sick die early.” Another read, “American workers deserve affordable health care.”
Haley Holdaway, 35, and her 8-year-old daughter, Riley, both came with signs. Riley’s said “Save the ACA.” She made it herself.
Haley said they watch the news a lot in their household, and Riley was curious why so many people were protesting. The Indianapolis resident told her daughter she was going to the rally with grandpa and asked if Riley wanted to come.
“We’re very frustrated with what’s happening,” said Haley, who held a “Repeal and replace Trump” sign.
Emcee Rosie Bryant started the speeches off with a chant to the crowd.
“Are you guys ready?” she yelled. “Tell me what democracy looks like.”
“This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd chanted back.
“We are here to resist, and we will not stop until we are heard,” Bryant said.
The first speaker was Sue Spicer, a local activist who worked on the Sanders campaign. She addressed a bag on the Statehouse steps as if it were Young.
She asked the bag how they could trust him and his team to replace the ACA and why the senator wasn’t doing six years ago what he’s doing now.
Next up was Laux from OFA, who began her speech by mentioning Young has been eluding her for years.
“I am glad to finally have the opportunity today to talk to Todd Yo — oh, wait,” she said with mock surprise. “Where is he?”
Listeners also heard emotional testimony from people like Doris Jones, a home health care aid and a custodian at Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical company with headquarters in downtown Indianapolis.
It’s imperative for children like her daughter to have Medicaid, Jones said.
“I’m not just terrified,” Jones said. “I’m mad as hell. I’m mad because I know that this is a matter of life and death for me and my daughter. I’m mad because people like Todd Young want to trap my daughter into a life of struggle and poverty.”
After the people at the rally heard everyone speak, they finally had the chance to yell at cardboard Young.
Malissa and Diyo Muyumba, a couple from Terre Haute, Indiana, came up to ask Todd Young why Diyo may or may not have deserved to have the heart transplant that saved his life.
They held signs with pictures of their kids on them that said “The ACA helped save our Dad” and “Because of the ACA our Daddy has a new heart.”
“We talk about standing up,” Malissa said first. “But I’m here because of the people who could not stand up.”
Diyo said before he was able to receive a heart transplant, he was told by his doctors that his options to receive the health care he needed were to try to get on his wife’s health care, to divorce his wife and receive additional funding or to go home with what he was given.
He got lucky, he said.
“By all means, I should not be here,” Diyo said.
“I’m glad you are,” someone from the crowd yelled out.
“I’m glad I’m here too,” he said. “Thank you.”
“That’s what we’re here to do,” Diyo continued a few moments later. “We’re supposed to take care of each other.”