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Clergy arrested outside McConnell’s office while protesting health care bill

North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber, accompanied by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas, left, as activists, many of them clergy, are taken into custody by U.S. Capitol Police on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on July 13, 2017. The activists were protesting against the Republican health care bill outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (RNS) Eleven interfaith protesters, including the Rev. William Barber II, were arrested outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office while protesting Medicaid cuts in the GOP’s revised health care bill.

About 50 protesters gathered Thursday (July 13) for the Capitol Hill rally, before marching to a Senate office building steps from the Capitol.

Clergy lead a group protesting against the Republican health care bill outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on July 13, 2017. RNS photo by Madeleine Buckley

Some protesters wore red armbands to symbolize a “willingness to engage in civil disobedience,” said Barber, a North Carolina pastor at the forefront of state and national protests focused on poverty and civil rights.

The group was warned three times to stop protesting. Capitol Police then closed off the hallway and arrested any remaining protesters about 20 minutes later.

Barber has repeatedly been arrested for civil disobedience in North Carolina and elsewhere.

Protesters said they want McConnell to know it’s immoral to cut Medicaid because it helps many children, seniors and disabled people.

They timed their march with the unveiling of the GOP health care bill, which would repeal and replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Critics of the GOP effort, which has run into roadblocks this spring and summer, say it would undermine the poorest and most vulnerable Americans.

At the rally, Barber called others of faith to action.

“We’re saying today it’s time for other clergy to come,” he said. “It’s time for moral agents to step up. It’s time for us to go down to the house of power and challenge the way power is being used.”

Upon reaching McConnell’s office, Barber; the Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of the nonprofit Faith in Public Life; and the Rev. Traci Blackmon, of the United Church of Christ, spoke to the crowd.

Clergy leaders who were not arrested continue a protest against the Republican health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on July 13, 2017. RNS photo by Madeleine Buckley

After the arrests, some of the remaining protesters gathered out front for prayer.

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Madeleine Buckley

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