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story.lead_photo.caption Clergy members rally inside the Missouri Capitol to promote Medicaid expansion on May 6, 2014. Twenty-three of them were charged with obstructing government operations and first-degree trespassing on Aug. 15. Photo by Julie Smith

The 23 clergy members who were arrested in May for disrupting a session of the Missouri Senate were charged Friday with obstructing government operations and first-degree trespassing.

Both charges are misdemeanors.

Those charged include two Jefferson City men - John Bennett, 74, and W.T. Edmonson, 62.

Edmonson said Friday: "Whatever penalty the system wants us to pay, we'll gladly pay - because it's a far less price than for those without Medicaid to pay."

Also charged were:

Emmett Baker Jr., St. Louis, 70.

And 20 from the Kansas City area:

Chaunia Chandler, Olathe, Kansas, 41.

Dawn Hickman, Lee's Summit, 47.

Steve Houpe, Platte City, 61.

Susan McCann, Liberty, 71.

Vernon Howard Jr., Raymore, 51.

Three from Grandview: Jessie Fisher, 75; Donna McDaniel, 50; and Ester Holzendorf, 76.

And 12 from Kansas City: Wallace Hartsfield, 85; Karlous Kalu, 60; James Tindall, 72; Tony Caldwell, 52; Rodney Williams, 58; Kenneth Mosley, 51; David Kingsley, 71; Tex Sample, 80; Tony Johnson, 47; Riccordo Lucas, 55; Lloyd Fields, 73; and Sam Mann, 74.

A Capital Police probable cause statement shows officers went to the gallery and saw a large crowd that was singing and chanting.

Their actions stopped Senate debate.

Some members of the crowd were escorted out by officers, but these 23 insisted on staying in the gallery and refused to leave.

They stayed and continued to sing and chant until they were arrested, booked and later released.

State officials said those arrested were not handcuffed.

These 23 were among 300 members and supporters of the statewide Missouri Faith Voices group who rallied in the Capitol Rotunda, May 6, urging lawmakers to expand the Medicaid program as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act.

Their Senate Gallery demonstration began with a chant that included shouts of "Expand Medicaid!"

As Capitol Police began ordering people to leave the gallery, some chanted: "We will not go. We will not be quiet."

The protesters also said they "mourn for those who have lost their lives" because lawmakers have not raised the Medicaid eligibility level.

Those arrested had positioned themselves at the front of the gallery, overlooking the Senate floor, and refused to leave until led out, one or two at a time, by the Capitol Police officers.

Even after leaving the chamber, they continued chanting, praying and singing, including "We Shall Overcome" and "We Shall Not Be Moved."

"We stand as clergy and people of faith," the protesters chanted. "We will not be silenced. We will not be quiet!"

Shortly after his arrest in May, Bennett - a retired Christian Church/Disciples of Christ pastor who also is a Missouri Faith Voices board member - told reporters: "We're calling it a "Rally for Dignity,' and the reason I am here is because - for want of Medicaid expansion - 12 people die each week in the state of Missouri.

"It's predicted that 700 Missourians - our sisters and brothers, children and grandchildren - will die next year if Medicaid expansion does not occur. That's morally offensive and, as people of faith, we will not tolerate that any longer."

Edmonson - president of Faith Voices for Jefferson City, a past president of the local NAACP branch and chairman of the Second Baptist Church Community Action Ministry - told the News Tribune in May: "We're simply saying, as people of faith, we have to speak out for the "least of these.'

"Yeah, we interrupted the Senate, but how else were we going to be heard?"

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