FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2014
ATLANTA - Over 100 Georgians peacefully petitioned their state lawmakers today to expand Medicaid and provide life-saving health care to more than 650,000 poor and uninsured people - and 39 people of conscience bore witness to the harm inflicted by this unjust, immoral denial of Medicaid by facing arrest for acts of civil disobedience they committed in the state senate gallery, outside Gov. Nathan Deal's office and outside the state senate chamber.
Today's demonstration, which marked the second-to-last day of the legislative session, was the ninth organized by the Georgia Moral Mondays coalition, and it brings the number of arrested since January at the state capitol to 72. Among the diverse group arrested were people who needed Medicaid, activists, Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church and Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP.
"The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement stands with the 39 individuals who peacefully engaged in civil disobedience, not intending to be arrested, to demand that they be heard on these matters of life and death to their communities," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president of the NC NAACP. "In Georgia, like in North Carolina, people are tired of lawmakers pushing these morally indefensible, constitutionally inconsistent and economically insane policies. Denying Medicaid to over 650,000 poor and uninsured people is not a policy issue; it is a moral issue. Some of those arrested today are people who were denied Medicaid and will not have health care because of the ideological, extreme positions of the lawmakers duty-bound to represent them. That is wrong, and it is time that Georgia's legislature started putting people before politics."
Last month, 23 people were arrested as they attempted to talk to a state senator about his refusal to allow a gun control bill to move forward that would have repealed the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law - a measure that has sparked outrage across the nation for allowing the killers of black men to avoid serious criminal culpability and punishment. In January, 10 demonstrators went to jail over Gov. Deal's decision to deny the Medicaid expansion, earning the moniker, 'The Medicaid 10.'
Georgia extremists have taken legislative actions all too familiar to North Carolinians this year. They denied the expansion of Medicaid, passed strict abortion restrictions that will hurt women, particularly women of color, restricted workers' rights, cut funding from public schools, attempted to roll back voting rights and practically eviscerated gun control laws by allowing guns to be carried into bars, churches and even schools.
"These 39 brave individuals may be sitting in jail now, but our feet rest beside them and our hearts go out to them and our voices are raised with theirs," Dr. Barber said, "as we - all of us across Georgia and North Carolina and the South who are tired of extremists in our legislatures kicking people when they are down - we will not rest until our public policy reaches the higher ground where the poor, not the wealthy, are at the center of our agenda."