Protesters carried bright signs and chanted as they marched around the University of New Mexico on Sunday, in one of dozens of rallies that drew thousands across the country targeting the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act and possible changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
The coordinated action was launched by former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and high-profile Washington, D.C., Democrats.
In Albuquerque, passing motorists honked in support as the group of more than 100 made its way down sidewalks and through the campus.
Connie O’Marra has insurance through her job, but said she’s worried for the many people who rely on the ACA.
“We know the only way we can make a change or get the attention of those powers is to come out here and protest,” she said. “So many other people will be impacted. So many other people will have threats to their lives with the loss of this. It’s important for us to stand up for everyone.”
Rupal Patel said that the ACA affects people who are privately insured, too. She pointed out that it was the ACA that brought insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, and it allowed dependents to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.
“It impacts even the average Joe Schmo who has insurance,” she said. “ACA covers a lot of stuff that people don’t recognize.”
Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke at a rally prior to the march.
“Our First Stand,” the catchall theme for the protests, was brainstormed by Sanders, an independent, and Democratic leaders in Congress. Some of the rallies across the nation introduced crowds to men and women who had faced death or bankruptcy before the ACA went into effect, then challenged Republicans to listen to their stories.
“The immediate goal of the rallies is to show Republicans that the majority of people are against repealing the Affordable Care Act,” Sanders said in an interview this week.
“I think people are waking up to the fact that the Affordable Care Act has been helping tens of millions of Americans,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., after a rally in Bowie, Maryland, organized by Maryland Democrats that drew 1,500 people. “Energizing the public around a common goal can have an important result.”
David Weigel at The Washington Post contributed to this story.