By John Zippert,
Greene County Democrat
The Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy held a Jericho Walls “Caravan for Alabama Lives” on April 28, 2020 in Montgomery. Alabama.
The Jericho Walls Caravan consisted of dozens of cars with black and white balloons that circled the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Montgomery seven times and then circled the Alabama State Capitol seven times. At the end of the caravan, SOS leaders held a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol and released the balloons as a tribute to those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney and former Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders said: “The seven times is biblically significant because when the Children of Israel marched around the Walls of the City of Jericho while shouting and blowing horns, the Walls fell down. We are taking action and hoping and praying that the walls that prevent the expansion of Medicaid will come tumbling down in Alabama. As the Governor moves to reopen Alabama, it is more critical than ever that Governor Ivey and the state she governs act to save Alabama lives.”
SOS said the purposes of the Caravan for Justice, are:
• To urge Gov. Ivey and the Legislative leadership to
Immediately expand Medicaid to serve 340,000 poor and working people with insurance coverage, in this time of the coronavirus pandemic;
• To highlight the grave disparity that Black, poor and working people are experiencing a dramatic disproportional share of the victims and deaths from coronavirus, and urge a focused response of testing, access, care and support for these traditionally underserved people and communities;
• To urge the release of all non-violent prisoners and people confined in jails, who cannot afford bail, on humanitarian grounds, due to the coronavirus.
Attorney and Civil Rights Advocate Faya Toure said: “The walls that keep employees working in unsafe places forcing them to walk off their jobs in order to protect themselves and their families must come down. As Alabama is moving to reopen, we are deadly concerned about safe working environments being provided for those who work in these businesses as well as those who do business there. Employees and nonemployees must be protected and guaranteed safe and sanitary workplaces.”
Toure reported on employees at American Apparel in Selma, Alabama, who walked off the job en mass last week when they learned that other employees were confirmed infected with the coronavirus. The employees asked that the entire plant be deep cleaned and all employees be tested. The employer cleaned the administrative offices and asked that employees come back to work and threatened that employees were not eligible for unemployment.
Employee Janice Peterson, who participated in the caravan, with other plant workers but decided not to come out of her car, said: “I have been with American Apparel for 16 years. I have a child with bronchitis. I had to leave my job when I learned that people with coronavirus had been working in the plant for almost two weeks without our knowing it. I do not want to risk my life, and I certainly do not want to risk my child’s life. We should not have to choose between our work and our lives.”
Founder of the World Conference of Mayors and former Tuskegee Mayor and State Representative Johnny Ford said: “The walls that are disproportionately killing Black people and other minorities due to COVID-19 must come down. We need more testing, more data and more care in all of Alabama but especially in areas that are predominately Black and minority and have been drastically underserved for my entire life. Unfortunately, access in these areas has only gotten more limited over the last several years. That is shameful and unacceptable. There is zero excuse for this in the United States of America in the 21st Century.”
Chair of the Greene County Health System John Zippert said: “The walls that are causing rural hospitals to close must come down. We fight every day to stay open and provide Alabamians most in need with health care. Rural hospitals are essential to fighting COVID-19 in our state and to saving Alabama lives. We have been fighting year after year after year to survive, and many Alabama rural hospitals have lost that fight. Alabama has always needed to expand Medicaid, but now that we are living in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, Medicaid expansion is more life-and-death than ever. We cannot change the past, but as she moves to reopen Alabama, Governor Ivey can and must expand Medicaid NOW.”
Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan said: “The walls that are keeping nonviolent Alabamians in prison and unnecessarily and excessively exposing them to the coronavirus must come down. The State of Alabama has a responsibility to those individuals in its custody. By knowingly exposing nonviolent offenders, some of whom have not been convicted at all, of the coronavirus Alabama is intentionally placing them at risk of death.”
Community Advocate Karen Jones, who drove the lead vehicle in the Caravan, said: “The walls that prevent testing for the COVID-19 virus of those who are most in need must come down. This Jericho Walls ‘Caravan for Alabama Lives’ is in recognition and symbolism of the deadly reality facing Alabamians. We released the black and white balloons today at the press conference in recognition of the lives lost and the lives in jeopardy in Alabama right now. The risk remains and could grow the coming weeks, and we cannot wait any longer for the state to act. The lives and health of too many Alabamians have already been lost and even more are in danger.”