WASHINGTON – Former "ER" star Noah Wyle and about 100 members of the group ADAPT were arrested Monday during a Capitol Hill protest to urge Congress not to cut Medicaid.
In an interview with The Associated Press while waiting to be processed in the basement of the Cannon House Office Building where the protest took place in the rotunda, Wyle said being arrested for the first time was "slightly surreal."
"As soon as everybody saw me being led away, they let up a big whooping cheer, which made me feel really good," Wyle said.
Many of the protesters were in wheelchairs. They're the ones who would be hurt most by any Medicaid cuts, Wyle said.
"Those cuts would reduce the hours of home health care aides being able to come in and give basic services, which would force people to basically give up their right to live in integrated, portable, accessible housing and put them in an institution," he said.
Wyle, who played young Dr. John Carter on the long-running show, said that's a "very short-sighted economic decision because it costs up to four times as much to have somebody in an institution than it does to have them require some hourly assistance every day."
Not only that, Wyle pointed out that people with disabilities would be taken away from their families and their jobs. So, he said, it's not really a medical issue, it's more of a civil rights issue.
Wyle had warned his ex-wife and kids, 9-year-old son Owen, and 6-year-old daughter Auden, that he might be arrested.
"I think they're really proud of the old man right now," he said.
It was five weeks ago that George Clooney, Wyle's former "ER" co-star, was arrested during a demonstration in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington.
Wyle said he would "let George focus on the international; I'll deal with the small domestic issues."
Wyle now plays the lead character in TNT's science fiction series, "Falling Skies."