Former Eagle County commissioner Arn Menconi arrested during Capitol protest | VailDaily.com

Former Eagle County commissioner Arn Menconi arrested during Capitol protest

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi was one of dozens arrested on Monday, Sept. 25, for disrupting a congressional hearing on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, a bipartisan plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Menconi said he doesn't enjoy getting arrested, but it has to happen — and he said sometimes it does — and he's grateful to the Capitol Police.

"The D.C. Capitol Police are always great. I even thanked the supervisor afterward," Menconi said.

"We were there to get inside a finance committee's meeting," Menconi said.

Mission accomplished.

Menconi was among disability rights groups and health care advocates who lined the hallways of the Capitol building prior to the Senate Finance Committee hearing. Menconi said he lined up at 7 a.m. for the 2 p.m. hearing, but because so many people were being paid to stand in line, he had a tough time getting into the hearing room.

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Co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. C., and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, were testifying on the panel. Before the hearing, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked Capitol Police to deal with the protesters.

"If you can't be in order then get the heck out of here," warned Hatch, according to reporting by Emily Tillett, a CBS News political reporter covering the hearing.

As protesters chanted "Save our Medicare" and "Health care is a human right!" several were dragged out of the chamber, including several in wheelchairs.

Menconi said there were at least 250 disabled people protesting.

"These are the most amazing fighters I've seen in my life," Menconi said.

Right to remain silent

Menconi said a Capitol police officer told him, "Sir, if you don't get up, we are charging you with resisting arrest."

"When a police officer says, 'We are charging you …' you remain silent," Menconi said, marveling at how many people ignore their right to remain silent.

The arrested protesters were charged with incommoding — "causing difficulty, disturbance and annoyance." It used to be called "disrupting Congress."

It's catch and release, Menconi said. You're hit with a $50 fine and the Capitol Police let you go.

Menconi's appearance has become much more mainstream. On Monday, he was resplendent in a business suit and tie, a far cry from the long hair he wore when he founded SOS Outreach.

"They don't like it when someone in a suit and tie, with some political background and an MBA, asks, 'Where did you get these numbers?'" Menconi said. "The Dons in the mob wear the best suits. If you want to bring down the gangsters, dress like a bankster."

Repeat performance

Menconi has been the guest of the Capitol Police before.

He was arrested in March 2015 when he interrupted a Senate hearing to protest American military force against a Middle East terrorist organization. For that one, Menconi stood and interrupted then-Secretary of State John Kerry during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on President Barack Obama's request for Authorization for Use for Military Force, AUMF, against the Islamic State group.

About 17 minutes into that hearing, Kerry was testifying, saying "We simply cannot allow this collection of murderers and thugs to achieve in their group their ambitions, which include …" Menconi stood and held a sign over his head lampooning AUMF, calling it "Another Useless Military Fiasco."

That entire incident was captured on C-SPAN.

Menconi has run for U.S. Senate and works for various social justice causes. He said this week's arrest came three years ago almost to the day of his ouster from SOS Outreach, reportedly for taking those kinds of social justice stands. These days he lives in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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