Protesters unite against Cruz outside veteran town hall

People from every background support each other, protest Cruz’s policies

Neelam Bohra, Co-Editor

“Tell me what democracy looks like!”

“This is what democracy looks like!”

Their chant echoed against a backdrop of thunderclouds and lightning, each colorful sign popping out against the dark gray. In Spanish, in English, for the sick and for the healthy, protesters with a variety of experiences united in front of the Sheraton McKinney to protest Ted Cruz’s stance for the new GOP healthcare plan.

He remains undecided on the health care plan, which waits on a senate vote, and has proposed an amendment that allows insurance companies to sell plans that do not comply with Affordable Care Act regulations as long as they sell plans that do comply. He appeared at the Sheraton as a part of the Concerned Veterans of America’s Defend and Reform tour.

For 49-year-old Pam Slavin, this ticket-requiring event spited her constant requests for Ted Cruz to host a town hall.

“I am a constituent of Texas and I’m not happy with the way the government is going,” Slavin said. “I’m really actually frightened with the things that the government on the national and state level are doing. We’re here trying to give Ted Cruz a message, and we’ve been asking him for a town hall meeting, and he hasn’t wanted to do it.”

Although Slavin came to participate in civic responsibility, 32-year-old Asad Shalami, simply came to protest Cruz’s ideals.

“I’m a vet as well as a refugee,” Shalami said. “I enlisted in 2010 and I served until 2014 as a combat medic. I served in Germany where we received wounded soldiers from Afghanistan and stabilized them on their way to the states. I also served at Fort Hood, and trained soldiers prior to deployment in emergency medical trauma. I’m also a refugee—I came here as a refugee when I was 11 years old.”

He barely remembers his birthplace, Afghanistan.

“I moved out when I was 5, I was a refugee to Pakistan,” he said. “I spent 5 years there, in the 1980s, when the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. I had an uncle who had come to America, so him and his wife decided to adopt me and bring me here. After college, I wanted to serve my country, my new home, and put in some service time.”

He believes he really experienced the American dream, yet doesn’t want these ideals to change with the change in government power.

“The great thing about America—well, former America, I guess, it’s very different right now—is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,” he said. “You have opportunities. You have a chance in life. That’s the idea of America, and the fact that Trump and his cohorts want to destroy the whole idea of America is mind-boggling and we need to stand up and fight back to get our idea of America back. I don’t like the way Ted Cruz is anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, so I’m here, to show support.”

Shalami says Ted Cruz has alienated him with racism. The senator has affected 44-year-old mother and protester Jennifer Wagnon, however, in a completely different way: his support of an amendment to the GOP’s new health care plan, known as the American Health Care Act, would allow insurance companies to skirt regulation and charge high prices to those with pre-existing conditions.

“I worked to help pass the ACA initially, because my son has cystic fibrosis,” Wagnon said. “His medication’s retail cost is in excess of 10,000 dollars a month. This is not something people can pay for out of pocket in any way. So, once the ACA has passed, he was protected. If they take away those protections, he will not be able to get insurance once he ages out of our insurance. And then, he will die.”

Her son Aaron has faced another challenge on top of cystic fibrosis, and as she described his sacrifices, her eyes filled with tears.

“My husband served in the military for 22 years,” Wagnon said. “It’s heartbreaking…As a military child, my son was serving before he knew what that meant. He was moving every 2 years. And now, to have people want to just abandon him, it’s heartbreaking.”

Across the Sheraton McKinney front lawn from Wagnon walked 43-year-old Soraya Colli, a patient advocate for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, and member of Indivisible DFW. Circling the protest, she handed out pink signs in support of Planned Parenthood.

“I’m connected to this because I’m a human being that lives in the United States,” Colli said. “As an extra, I am a Texan. As another extra, I am a woman. All those things combined are just facts walking down the street, and the most obvious thing that’s a fact walking down the street is that I’m a Latina. Whether Ted Cruz likes it or not, he represents Latinas.”

She explained how her community looks to Cruz for political support, yet feels neglected. And that’s why she said she protested—to join with everyone who felt neglected.

“We need somebody on our side,” Colli said. “A Texas senator is an enormously powerful position. He could do a lot of good, but instead, he chooses to waffle and weave, and we just can’t get behind that. Because of that, I’m not going to support Ted Cruz in 2018.”