Gardner protesters released from jail after 30 hours, vow to keep fighting

Everyone was free to go home a little before 4 a.m., bringing an end — though only for now — to an effort to convince Cory Gardner to stand against his party’s health care plan.

Kalyn Heffernan poses for a portrait. A sit-in at Senator Cory Gardner's office opposing a Republican healthcare plan, June 28, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Kalyn Heffernan poses for a portrait. A sit-in at Senator Cory Gardner's office opposing a Republican healthcare plan, June 28, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denverite; protest; cory gardner; sit in; civil disobedience; healthcare; medicaid; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado;
Kalyn Heffernan poses for a portrait. A sit-in at Senator Cory Gardner’s office opposing a Republican healthcare plan, June 28, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The protesters arrested after about 58 hours camped out at Sen. Cory Gardner’s Denver office were released early Saturday morning after about 30 hours in jail.

Everyone was free to go home a little before 4 a.m., bringing an end to the effort that began Tuesday to convince the Republican senator to stand against his party’s health care plan. But only for now.

“We’re gonna keep the heat on him, especially now, the way all that shit went down,” said activist and Wheelchair Sports Camp MC Kalyn Heffernan. “It’s pretty foul and unnecessary.”

Once they arrived at the jail, processing took something like 15 hours, Heffernan said, calling it the most uncomfortable part of the ordeal. It’s cold in there, and the metal benches have arm rests on them so you can’t lie down.

Once that was over, they were still in for a long night. Everyone in a wheelchair was sent to medical, and everyone else went in with the general population.

“Then it was just like a waiting game,” she said. “We should have been out. When we got there, the chief had acted like he was trying to make it so we could get bonded out quicker.”

If there’s any silver lining to the experience, it’s that Heffernan said they found some support inside.

“A lot of the cops were down with what we did and the nurses and the people from the hospital who treated one of our friends,” she said. “A lot of people knew what we were there for and were in support, so that was cool.”

A crowd gathered outside to wait in support, ready to post bail if they needed to. Among them were Rep. Joe Salazar, Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, state Sen. Irene Aguilar and state Rep. Leslie Herod. At the time, they were told by a representative of the sheriff’s department that the wait was so long because the booking system was down.

On Saturday, attorney David Lane said, “I’d call it incompetence.”

“It’s ridiculous and I’m going to look into it,” Lane said. “If that’s business as usual in Denver, then Denver’s going to be answering to a federal judge about why, when a state court judge orders a release at noon, they spend and additions 15 to 16 hours in jail. That’s inexcusable and indefensible.”

Lane also said the charges of trespassing, and in some cases resisting arrest, still stand and the protesters will appear in court.

If they go according to what has happened in the past, some charges will be dismissed,” he said. 

The protesters aren’t done yet, though. Heffernan said she’s grateful to be free and to be able to sleep in her own bed — a privilege many people with disabilities don’t have because they need to go to jail or into institutions to get the care they need but can’t afford.

“It makes it more important for us to keep the pressure until this deadly health care bill is slashed,” she said. “And they’re gonna do everything in their power to cut services and cut corners. We’re not gonna stop fighting until we get to keep the little care we get.”

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers dining and nightlife, and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.