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Hundreds attend health care rally in Cleveland


CLEVELAND — Oberlin College students were among hundreds of people attending a Day of Action rally Sunday evening in Cleveland in support of the Affordable Care Act.

The Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus organized the rally in defense of the act, also known as Obamacare, at Service Employees International Union 1199 union hall. Every seat in the hall was filled, and people also stood or sat on the floor.

The Cleveland rally was among several across the nation held at the request of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who called upon Americans to congregate in communities on a day he would address a rally in Detroit on the GOP’s push to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Among the speakers at the Cleveland rally was former Ohio House candidate Steve Holecko, who lost to Martin Sweeney in the Democratic primary for District 14. He discussed the importance of unity in mobilizing for Obamacare.

“There is no unity with Trump,” he said, referring to President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. “There is unity with us.”

Holecko told the audience they “are a resistance force,” working aboveground by participating in rallies and protests, but also standing “underground” by volunteering at places like Planned Parenthood and food shelters.

Holecko said if people call — better yet send handwritten letters — to their state and local representatives, Obamacare might be saved from repeal.

The rally leaders then passed out paper, envelopes and the addresses of representatives so attendees could write letters outlining personal narratives and reasons they find the Affordable Care Act important.

Another speaker, Single-Payer Action Network Ohio representative Dave Pavlick, discussed Obamacare’s pros and cons. Despite the act’s failures, he said, health care coverage for all Americans, including for prescription drugs and mental health care, are important.

He said when he worked as a detention officer at the Cuyahoga County Jail for more than 20 years, its mental health ward helped inmates overcome their drug addictions. If Obamacare is repealed, he said, then “200,000 people in Ohio lose their mental health care from Medicaid.” He said many of those inmates then would be in danger of reverting to drug and substance dependence after release.

The rally concluded with state Rep. Nicki Antonio,

D-Lakewood, who said she believes a single-payer health care system with expanded Medicaid is best for Americans, but was critical of Obamacare’s shortcomings.

She ended her speech by asking a favor of constituents.

“Push us as Democrats,” she said, and again stressed that representatives cannot ignore handwritten letters and massive waves of phone calls on an issue.

After the rally, a few attendees shared their concerns and reasons to support the Affordable Care Act.

“The Republicans with the election of Donald Trump tried to expand the war on women to a war on everyone,” Lake County librarian Dawn Grattino, 58, said. “There’s so much rank hypocrisy among Republicans. … I’ve always believed in justice for everyone.”

Grattino also said if Obamacare is repealed, her son, who has pre-existing conditions, and her friend, who has grappled with cancer, risk losing health care.

Two Oberlin College students, Saul Kester, 20, and Ethan Aronson, 21, also shared their views.

“The Affordable Care Act does have its flaws, but having no protections for American citizens is a human rights issue,” Kester said. “I don’t know if this event will stop (the repeal) — it probably won’t — but I can’t stand by without a fight.”

“I know that those people are disproportionately low income and people of color and often disabled,” Aronson said about people under Obamacare. “I care about those 20 million people (dependent on the Affordable Care Act).”

Contact Melissa Harris at 329-7155 or

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