SOS continues the struggle for Medicaid Expansion with demonstrations in Montgomery

SOS members kneel in prayer placing banner saying “Black Lives Matter
and Expand Medicaid” in the street in front of the State Capitol.

The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy has continued its fight for Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature to Expand Medicaid especially in this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
On August 6, 2020, on the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, about 50 members of SOS held a demonstration and press conference on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.
Despite the presence of over twenty Montgomery Police Department officers, SOS members carried a banner saying “Black Lives Matter and Expand Medicaid” and placed the banner in the street in front of the Capitol, where its members had previously been arrested in July for writing those same words in the street with yellow spray paint.
On August 20, 2020 SOS members held a “Shout Out to Save Lives” in front of the Governor’s Mansion in the Garden District of downtown Montgomery. When SOS demonstrators arrived at Noon, the police had barricaded the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the Governor’s Mansion for 400 feet.
SOS set up its speaking podium on the sidewalk in viewing and hearing distance of the Mansion and began our shout-out for Medicaid Expansion despite the barricades and the police insistence that we move our cars that were parked across the street from the Mansion or risk having them towed.
Former Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee, who also serves as Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee, said “Health rights are the Civil Rights issue of our times. In this time of COVID-19 there is a need for great Federal and state support of health care for all people but especially people of color who are dying at disproportionately higher rates.”
Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of the Ordinary People’s Society in Dothan, Alabama and an advocate for prisoners, said “I do not understand why Gov. Ivey and the State Legislature is ready to accept money from Federal sources for building prisons and every other purpose but will not accept funds to expand Medicaid. We must also work to release prisoners from jails and prisons so they will not contract the coronavirus.”
Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan said: “An Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) poll released three weeks ago shows a majority of the people of Alabama – Democrats and Republicans and Independents –support Medicaid expansion. Alabama is one of only 12 states in the nation that has failed to act. The people of Alabama know we need Medicaid expansion and want Medicaid expansion in Alabama NOW. All it takes is leadership.”
Greene County Health System Board Chair and Co-Publisher of The Greene County Democrat John Zippert said: “There is a reason why the Alabama Hospital Association has been campaigning and fighting so hard for the expansion of Medicaid. Medicaid expansion will not only save lives and improve the health of those Alabamians who need and should be getting health care in our state. It will also save Alabama hospitals, both rural and urban, which Alabama has been killing at an alarming rate. Every time a hospital closes in a community, all people with insurance as well as those without insurance are detrimentally affected, and too many times this results in failed health and death. This is wrong, and Governor Ivey is a murderer for intentionally refusing to expand Medicaid. All it takes is leadership to end this wrong.”
Since July 23th, 2020, 13 Alabamians have been arrested by the Montgomery City Police for civil disobedience misdemeanors to save lives in our state, improve health in Alabama and secure justice for people in Alabama. They include: Kumasi Amin with Black Lives Matter; former Tuskegee Mayor and state Representative Johnny Ford; Community Advocate and Civil Rights activist Karen Jones; attorney and Civil Rights activist Faya Rose Toure; Board Chair of the Greene County Health Systems and Co-Publisher of The Greene County Democrat John Zippert; Stef Bernal-Martinez with the Poor People’s Campaign; attorney Ellen Degnan with the Southern Poverty Law Center; Judson Garner with Black Lives Matter and SOS; Yomi Goodall, a community leader based in Montgomery and Selma; Alabama Law Professor Emerita and attorney Martha Morgan; Hank Sanders, an attorney and former 35-year Alabama State Senator; Dana Sweeney with Alabama Appleseed; and Queen Tate, a film specialist.  
Law enforcement, after calling their superiors, originally assured the peaceful protesters at the Capitol on July 23rd that no one would be arrested. Then hours later City Police issued two arrest warrants for Black leaders Karen Jones and Johnny Ford that night. When SOS pointed out the next day the Montgomery City Police only issued writ of arrests for two Black people, instead of summons as advised by the Governor in her 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Proclamation, and also not for the White man who painted “Expand Medicaid” on a small patch of pavement with no traffic in front of the Capitol at the same peaceful event.
The next evening three more writs of arrest were issued, including for John Zippert. Those five, who learned of their arrests from the media and not the City Police, voluntarily turned themselves in on signature bonds on July 27th and were held in a jail with City employees and inmates who were not masked for more than five hours. 
 Nine additional misdemeanor arrests were made on July 30th by the Montgomery City Police, with five of those arrests being for people simply standing on the pavement in front of the Capitol and nothing more. While in custody on July 27th, only two individuals who turned themselves in on misdemeanors were strip searched – Black women Karen Jones and Faya Toure. During the later July 30th arrests, the City started strip searching White man Judson Garner but suddenly halted that.
City Police also threatened to arrest two Whites on July 30th for legally parking in a public parking space only after they realized they were with members of SOS. Similar intimidating actions by the City of Montgomery Police continued today even though all protestors were peaceful. The City again said, as they did on July 23rd, that no arrests would be made today, and no arrests have been made and no arrest warrants have been issued thus far. SOS and the other groups will continue their work to ensure Medicaid is expanded in Alabama so no one else has to needlessly die due to inaction by Alabama elected officials.

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