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Councilman Corey Johnson Talks About His Arrest During Health Care Protests

 Corey Johnson was arrested outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office on Wednesday.
Corey Johnson was arrested outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office on Wednesday.
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Erik Bottcher

CHELSEA — Local Councilman Corey Johnson, who was was arrested in Washington Wednesday protesting efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, said that being HIV positive compelled him to demonstrate with dozens of others outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office.

“I’m very open about the fact that I’m HIV positive, and I’m lucky that I’m a City Council member, so I have good health insurance," Johnson told DNAinfo New York on Thursday after returning to New York. "But there are millions and millions of people who would be immorally affected by a repeal."

Johnson, chairman of the Council's health committee, whose district includes Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, the West Village and parts of Flatiron, SoHo and the Upper West Side, was among at least 155 people arrested during the demonstrations Wednesday.

“It’s always a little scary to get arrested, but… when you’re doing it for a cause you believe in, it’s empowering at the same time,” he said. “We were peaceful, told our stories and complied with the Capitol police when they asked us to.”

Facebook videos show the politician chanting outside McConnell's office before being led handcuffed into a police vehicle outside the building.

Police cuffed Johnson around 4 p.m. Wednesday and released him from custody around 9 p.m., he said, noting it was the fourth time he has been arrested for civil disobedience. He returned to New York City about 1:45 a.m. Thursday, his spokesperson said.

Many of the protesters in D.C. yesterday were HIV and AIDS activists — though “not exclusively,” he noted — and the number of people who occupied Senate office buildings Wednesday “shows how much is on the line."

“[People] can’t lose their Medicaid, they can’t not have access to life-saving medication and health insurance coverage,” he said. “For a lot of people, this is life and death.”