The Rev. Gregory Christopher, the leader of Shiloh Baptist Church on Tacoma’s Hilltop, was arrested Tuesday while protesting in Washington, D.C., for health care access.
Christopher, 59, said he was arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police for trespassing and disturbing the peace after a 1 p.m. protest outside the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
The Service Employees International Union, which represents health care workers, sent Christopher and about 250 others to the nation’s capital to protest Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hatch chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which would oversee changes to the act.
Christopher said he participated in the protests because about half of his constituents, at the Shiloh Baptist Church and those he serves as head of the North Pacific Baptist Convention, depend on the health care law.
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He arrived in Washington, D.C., late Monday to attend a civil disobedience training session, then went to the Capitol area Tuesday.
Protesters were unable to talk to Hatch directly, Christopher said, but they did talk to other Republican senators.
“We went to six other senators who can help save the Affordable Care Act, to try and encourage them to not repeal it,” Christopher said, “at least until they’ve got something in place to help keep 20 to 30 million people on health care.”
After meeting with the other Republican senators, the protesters sat down outside Hatch’s office and began chanting. That is when they were arrested.
“When the officer came up to me and asked me to stand up and turn around, that was kind of emotional,” he said. “I felt good about at least trying to help somebody else.”
About 50 people were arrested in the office building, said SEIU Healthcare 1199NW spokeswoman Linnae Riesen, including all five people from Washington state.
Christopher spoke to The News Tribune shortly after being bailed out of jail, where he was for more than five hours.
“This is the first time I’ve been arrested for doing something good,” Christopher said.
A U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman confirmed late Tuesday that 47 people were arrested in the Hart Senate Office Building, but she could not give further details because the official report was still being processed.
Christopher, who expected to return home late Wednesday, considers the trip a success — even if he found having his 6-foot-1 frame stuffed into the back of a police vehicle to be uncomfortable.