The Alabama Department of Public Health (ALDPH) says it has not received enough doses of the coronavirus vaccine to serve the 325,000 frontline health workers in the state, much less the over 300,000 people in the age group over 75, teachers and other essential workers who are in the next group scheduled to be vaccinated. The ALDPH has asked people in the State of Alabama to be patient as it seeks to increase its delivery of vaccines and their distribution around the state. In a January 9th press release the ALDPH said “As of January 18th, the Health Department will offer vaccinations to the population ages 75 and over. You may call 1-855-566-5333 from 8:00AM to 5:00PM, seven days a week to schedule an appointment.” Three days later ALDPH issued a press release saying over 1.1 million people in the state had called the number, most without reaching anyone to schedule their appointment. Later ALDPH warned that calling hospitals directly to inquire about vaccinations was tying up phone lines needed for emergency calls. Several persons connected with the Greene County Health System Board of Directors report calling the toll-free line numerous times without success. Most received a busy signal or a voicemail which records their interest in a vaccination but there has been no call back with an appointment for vaccination. A GCHS staff member who did receive their first vaccination shot was having trouble reaching the ALDPH to schedule their second shot which is due soon. Dr. Pugh, CEO and Administrator of the Greene County Health System says, “I have been working to secure vaccines for our facility to be able to vaccine various priority groups. The best information so far is that we will get supplies of vaccine by the end of January. We have had some of our medical and support staff vaccinated at the Health Department. We do not have a date yet for the vaccination of the nursing home residents and other vulnerable groups, who are on the priority list for vaccination.” John Zippert, Chair of the GCHS Board of Directors says, “The muddled vaccine delivery and distribution problems in Alabama arise from the failure of the national administration in Washington to develop a national plan for coronavirus vaccination and to provide the resources to implement the plan. We may have to wait until after the Biden-Harris Inauguration, to have people take charge who are concerned and really want to stop this damaging pandemic. In the meantime, I guess we are forced to accept the Alabama Department of Public Health’s prescription of patience.” “We have so many people desperately seeking the vaccination when the state of Alabama is having difficulties getting us a supply of vaccine,”. said Dr. Pugh. The problems of vaccine distribution come with a backdrop of increasing and record numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths attributable to the coronavirus in Greene County, Alabama and the nation
Katrina survivor and activist Barbara Robbins and her 95-year-old mother are forced from their home of 52 years, because they never received rebuilding assistance!
News Analysis By: Zack Carter Preparing for the 10th Anniversary of Katrina the Poor People’s Campaign held a Truth Commission in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The organizer’s report cites the community’s action items, and the testimony of Barbara Robbins, with whom I had the privilege of working with for ten years, fighting for a just recovery after Katrina: “From the testimonies of these community leaders, the Saving OurSelves Coalition identified the following issues for action: • “Recover and repair the homes of Snows Quarters: Alabama Fisheries Coop leader Barbara Robbins was forced out of Safe Harbor after she became disabled. ‘We [in Snows Quarter, the African American community of Bayou La Batre]…Out of some 100 homes, only four of us received meaningful assistance. Since Katrina many of our homes flood after a hard rain and we can’t even flush the toilet. My living room floor is rotting. I am afraid my 90-year-old mother will fall through any day…”. (“A Truth Commission Begins in Bayou La Batre, Alabama”, by John Wessel-McCoy, Nov. 7, 2014/Kairos). https://kairoscenter.org/truth-commission-bayou-la-batre-alabama/
The Truth Commission also referenced a 10-page report submitted to the United Nations, five years after Katrina, authored by Louisiana and Mississippi activists which concluded on pp. 7-8:
‘The hurricane damaged communities in Alabama are the most overlooked areas by the U.S. Government, and are not mentioned in the U.S. Government’s reports to the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination regarding Hurricane Katrina” (Prepared by Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (Louisiana, USA),and The Gulf States Human Rights Working Group (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana) https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/gulf-coast-activists-report-the-un-human-rights-committee/
Barbara Robbins was one of the thousands overlooked, but she refused to give up on getting their home repaired. With years of savings from her meager wages as a seafood worker and with a lot of borrower’s debt, Barbara hired a contractor to repair the floors. But it was a scam, like that suffered by thousands of other Katrina survivors. A photo shows the problem of the floors separating from the walls, which forced their recent departure from where they lived since 1968. Barbara Robbins, now disabled, cares full-time for her mother in a small low-income housing apartment.
Floors separating from walls in Barbara Robbins home, photo by Barbara Robbins 8/29/20
On the 15th Anniversary of Katrina, Aug 29, 2020, Barbara told me their heartbreaking story:
“When I take Mother out, the only place she wants to go, and the only safe place where we can avoid the virus, is the driveway of our home in Snows Quarter. This is where she and my father raised six children in the 1960’s and 70’s. Mother wants to go into our house, but I have to remind her it is not safe anymore. So, we just sit there in the car and reminisce for an hour or so until she finally says, ‘Okay, I’m ready to go now.’” After an emotional pause in our interview Barbara continued: “Recently the bank approved me for a trailer to put next to our home that I still hope to rebuild. I was about to rush to our apartment and give Mother the great news, but I was then told the City of Bayou La Batre will not allow trailers, even on the property we have owned for 52 years!” “We never received any Katrina rebuilding assistance, like most of us in our Black Community. And that goes all the way back to our homeowners insurance agent who refused our claim, saying we were only covered for wind damage and not water damage even though Katrina’s 130 mph winds pushed the huge surge of water through our house, and on its return to the Gulf the surge sucked all our furniture out except the large freezer that jammed in the doorway.” The powers that be in our state tried to deflect Alabama Katrina survivors’ demands for justice with the coded racist-based lie that ‘all the aid is going to New Orleans.’ Then, less than two years after Katrina, an Alabama investigative reporter revealed: (”Katrina aid goes to condo buyers near the University of Alabama’s football stadium”, by Jay Reeves, AP, August 14, 2007, Tuscaloosa News,) https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/DA/20070814/News/606118146/TL
The previous month the same newspaper published my Op-ed based on testimony and data provided by neglected Katrina survivors collected by Mobile County, and supported by a strong legal opinion from a national Civil Rights organization: “……more than 2,000 Katrina survivors in Alabama still stuck in FEMA campers, and hundreds more doubled up in single-family homes, desperately waiting for Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds — allocated last summer — to be released. “ The state’s failure to provide for these citizens contradicts the federal funding program’s intent to assist low- to moderate-income people and violates Alabama’s own stated objective to address unmet needs,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. (“MY TURN” by Zack Carter, Tuscaloosa News, July 15,2007) . https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/DA/20070715/News/606117785/TL We had also received a legal boost from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law who, on June 6, 2007 wrote a 4.5-page letter and shared their logo with three Alabama groups, and co-signed by hundreds of organizations and individuals. https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/lawyers-committee-on-civil-rights-under-law-al-activists-letter-to-state-of-al/
Thus, our coalition countered the racist propaganda and policies by uniting with Civil Rights organizations and historic African American communities in north Mobile hard-hit by Katrina, as well as Katrina survivors in Louisiana and Mississippi. See for example one of our brochures that includes several pages of riveting photos of destruction, and survivors testimonies, from north Mobile along a 30 mile stretch to the “Bayou” : (“Tour of Mobile County Katrina Survivors”. https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/flyer-for-tour-of-mobile-county-victims/
On the 2nd Anniversary of Katrina, Barbara Robbins, along with several carloads of Alabama Katrina survivors, Blacks, Asians, and Whites, attended the August 28, 2007 GULF COAST REBUILDING PROGRAM at the HBCU Dillard University in New Orleans. A featured speaker was Representative Maxine Waters. In the first two minutes of the CSPAN user video clip cited below, Representative Waters commended a Mississippi panelist for documenting unjust homeowner’s insurance companies’ schemes. She received a loud ovation after strongly stating: “it will take a revolution” to end these monopolized insurance companies’ corrupt refusal to pay claims (such as that suffered by Barbra Robbins!). Just after Rep Waters thunder, Derrick Johnson (now president of the NAACP) introduced me and the inhuman treatment of people in our state: “Zack Carter, Alabama has been largely ignored as it relates to Katrina damage you all suffered. What do you see the federal government’s response should be?”.https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4901931/user-clip-rep-maxine-waters-zack-carter My response was based on the, detailed evidence Alabama Katrina survivors had initiated, and then collected from licensed housing inspectors and summarized in a letter a Mobile County Commissioner, co-signed with us activists on July 7, 2007– documenting that there was only enough federal funds to repair or rebuild 15 – 20% of 1200 CDBG applicants who were accepted; and thousands more who missed the unjust two week, and barely publicized, deadline. (Mobile County and AL activists letter to Sen Shelby documenting Katrina damage) https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/mobile-county-and-al-activists-letter-to-sen-shelby-documenting-katrina-damage/ Barbara Robbins helped lead a Multi-Racial Coalition of Alabama Katrina Survivors
On the 4th Anniversary of Katrina Celebrating a Victory: Barbara and Gertrude Robbins are pictured with several other activists in an article on the award-winning blog Bridge the Gulf : “…in front of one of the 300-plus homes that were repaired or rebuilt in south Mobile County because of the grassroots advocacy and determined unity of all cultures, races, and creeds in The Bayou’ “.
Pictured left to right: Earl Presley; Stella Mae Smith; Paul Nelson, Zack Carter, Becky Barbour, Ernest Montgomery, Gertrude Robbins, Neece Presley, Donna Hunt, Danielle McKenzie, Phyllis Johnson, Barbara-Jean Robbins, Michael Robbins, Rosie Robbins. (Photo by Stefanie Bosarge, August 29, 2009)
“Struggle for a Home Struggle for a Home in Alabama’s Bayou”
The 15-minute video “Struggle for a Home Struggle for a Home in Alabama’s Bayou” documents how black, white, and Asian Alabama Katrina survivors joined in a decade-long active struggle for their human right to rebuild after Katrina. https://vimeo.com/55330965
Barbara Robbins is seen often in the video — including the above photo of the blistering speech she gave to the corrupt director at Bayou La Batre’s Safe Harbor in 2012, for rent gouging and evicting residents from this 100-home neighborhood built with $18 million from HUD and FEMA for homeless Katrina survivors. The “Safe Harbor” director’s response was to call the police on all of the Katrina survivors and activists gathered at this public meeting. Now in 2020, the same director and co-director recently resigned and are under investigation by the local sheriff’s office who told the press: ‘There is a substantial amount of money that comes in and not a dime has been used to improve or maintain the houses. there certainty appears to be a misappropriation of funds to put it nicely.’” (“Safe Harbor Landing raises concerns as MCSO launches investigation”, by Gaby Easterwood, WKRG, Sept. 20, 20.https://www.wkrg.com/local-news/safe-harbor-landing-raises-concerns-as-mcso-launches-investigation/ Ms. Robbins’s activism continues to this day, see the letter cited below to the present Mayor of Bayou La Batre from, Barbara Robbins, John Zippert, and me asking that he allow Ms. Robbins to place a trailer on her property as she continues to seek rebuilding assistance; and proposing a plan and for a housing cooperative that would restore the promise of affordable housing and rent-to-buy at “Safe Harbor”, dated Oct. 13, 2020. https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/10/25/letter-to-mayor-of-bayou-la-batre-from-barbara-robbins-john-zippert-and-zack-carter-oct-13-2020/
Barbara and Gertrude Robbins story is emblematic of the one million people who were displaced by the inhuman and racist policies that followed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which also and yet to be accurately calculated, greatly increased the initial death toll of some 2,000. And today, as we are hit with disasters from Coronavirus to Gulf Coast hurricanes Laura, Sally, Beta, and Delta to forest fires in California and Colorado, our human rights are increasingly trampled under Trump and the extreme racist influence of his senior advisor Steven Miller. By April of this year Trump and Miller had already cut FEMA’s budget in half — our country’s main relief agency – as they increased funding for their southern border wall and war on immigrants and their children, even separating nursing babies from their mothers! See: “FEMA Joined Coronavirus Fight with Posts Unfilled and Parent Agency Shifting Funds to Immigration” (Wall Street Journal, April 2020); see also “In the Midst of a War on the Coronavirus, Trump and Stephen Miller Redirect Funding to Their War on Immigrants”. (yuba.net, April 20, 2020) Trump and Miller are determined that survivors and victims of recent Gulf Coast Hurricanes will not be able to return to their homes in the same way that Hurricane Katrina survivors in Bayou La Batre and other Gulf Coast towns have not been able to return after a decade and a half. Many properties of Katrina survivors ended up in the hands of wealthy developers and casinos, a phenomenon documented in Naomi Klein’s 2007 book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”. Indeed, at the end of my interview with Barbara Robbins she told me a developer shamelessly offered a paltry amount for their property. Barbara rejected him and said: “I would rather see my home remain in ruins commemorating unjust Katrina policy”. ACTION ALERT: Please call Bayou La Batre Mayor Terry Dowdy at 251 824 2171 and ask that he allow Barbara Robbins to place a trailer on their property so she and 95-year-old Gertrude Robbins can return to the home she bought and loves.
About the author: Zack Carter is a community organizer who helped bring national attention to unjust Katrina and BP recovery policies. He was trade union activist in Mobile during the 1980’s and advocated for Labor to speak out against the Klan lynching of Michael Donald. He currently serves on the Steering Committee of the SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy.
A group of leaders of the SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy protested Tuesday, December 15, in front of Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office at 501 Washington Street in Montgomery. The protest was to denounce and question Marshall’s decision to join with 17 other Republican Attorney Generals from around the nation, in a Texas lawsuit to question absentee voting in four states – Georgia, Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania – and throw out the legally cast votes, many by Black and Brown people in those states. The United States Supreme Court, wisely rejected and declined to hear the Texas lawsuit, which was part of a continuing campaign by President Trump and his backers to disenfranchise legitimate votes and take away the election victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on November 3, 2020. The protestors carried signs that said: AG Marshall you must resign; Marshall you abused your powers, you acted lawlessly; Prosecute yourself – AG Marshall; You betrayed the voters of Alabama. Faya Rose Toure, SOS leader and attorney from Selma said, “We are demanding that Attorney General Marshall resign. He used Alabama funds backing a frivolous law to challenge the legitimate votes of Blackfolks in four other states. He joined a lawsuit to challenge legal actions in other states, who voted for Biden, even though we did the same things in Alabama, where Trump won.” John Zippert, SOS Steering Committee member from Greene County said, “Who authorized Attorney General Marshall to spend time and money on lawsuits to fight things that many Alabama citizens support. Not only did he join this recent lawsuit against other states voting rights but he joined the lawsuit to rule the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, which will deny healthcare coverage to millions of people in Alabama and around the nation. Zippert also read portions of a letter sent by Bernard Simelton, President of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP to Attorney General Marshall. The letter says, “We are outraged that you chose to involve the state of Alabama in a baseless and frivolous lawsuit aimed at overturning an American Election. If the citizens of this state and nation do not have the right to vote in an American Election, we call upon you to explain to us why.” The letter concludes saying, “It is very disturbing to see you take such a bold step to support a lawsuit that is racist on its face. The unmitigated gall to invalidate millions of votes cast by African Americans and people of color is insulting at best and criminal at worst – we are grateful that the Supreme Court twice rejected you and 106 Congresspersons, and hope we can get back to the business of addressing real voter suppression in the state of Alabama instead of chasing down unsubstantiated claims in other states.” This letter was signed by SOS, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Alabama Arise, Greater Birmingham Ministries, in addition to the NAACP.
Probate Judge Rolanda Wedgeworth confirmed to the Greene County Democrat on Friday, that there will be a Local Referendum No. 1 on the November 3, 2020 ballot to raise ad valorem property tax in Greene County by 4 mills to benefit the Greene County Hospital. John Zippert, Chairperson of the Greene County Hospital Board said, “We must pass this tax to support the hospital if we want to keep our hospital open and modernize and improve the services available from the hospital. In times of a global pandemic of coronavirus the need for a local hospital and related health facilities is clear.” Dr. Marcia Pugh, GCHS Administrator and CEO said, “Our financial reports show that the Greene County Health System has provided $100,000 a month in uncompensated care for Greene County residents. Funds from electronic bingo have helped to pay part of this but we are still going into debt each month to keep the hospital open.” She continued, “Our physical plant was built in 1961, 60 years ago. Since I have been Administrator, we have had to replace physical systems, like our sewage pipes, telephone system, computer systems, laundry machines, and other necessary services. We have upgraded our laboratory, X-ray machine, emergency room area and we are planning to improve our MRI and other imaging services. Some of this new tax money will go to modernize and improve our facilities and medical services.” This Local Referendum No.1 and six Statewide Amendments will be on the ballot for November 3, 2020 if you vote absentee or at the polls. “A 4 mil increase in taxes amounts to $4.00 per $1,000 of assessed valuation of property in Greene County. This is a small price to pay for a 24/7 emergency room, staffed by physicians, comfortable hospital rooms, laboratory, X-ray, up-to-date imagining, compassionate skilled nursing, and many other services,” said Zippert. Based on current valuations of property in Greene County, one mil of property tax will generate $160,000 in revenues, so passage of this referendum would provide $640,000 in needed revenues, each year, for the Greene County Hospital, beginning in 2022. Local Referendum No. 1 states: “The Greene County Commission resolved that, pursuant to Constitutional Amendment 76 (Sec.215.02) of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, the issue of a four (4) mil special county tax on each dollar of taxable property in Greene County for the construction, operation, equipping and maintenance of the public or nonprofit hospital facilities of the Greene County Health System shall be submitted to the electors of Greene County, Alabama on the November 3, 2020 General Election. If a majority o0f qualified electors participating in the election shall vote in favor of the referendum, then the said taxes shall be levied and collected and provided to the Greene County Health System.” The Greene County Democrat will include more information on this referendum in future issues. We also welcome your opinions, please write us Letters to the Editor on this tax referendum.
The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) held its bi-weekly protest on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama to call for Governor Kay Ivey to expand Medicaid; for state and federal officials to intensify their response to the coronavirus, especially by increasing testing, contact tracing and support for the Alabama Black Belt counties, and Black, Brown and poor communities, who are dying from the virus at disproportionately higher rates; releasing non-violent detainees from jails and prisons to reduce the spread of coronavirus and other concerns.
Nine people were arrested by the City of Montgomery Police when they began painting “Good Trouble” and “Expand Medicaid” over the light gray paint that the City had painted over “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” written by SOS protestors in a similar demonstration on July 16, 2020. Fewer than half of those individuals were actually painting – or attempting to paint. Several were arrested for simply standing on the gray painted pavement in front of the Capitol that does not block any traffic. The police closed in and started making arrests before the protestors could complete writing full words. The SOS protest yesterday, July 28, 2020, was also directed at the Mayor, Police Chief and staff of the City of Montgomery Police Department for their humiliating treatment of five SOS and Black Lives Matter activists who turned themselves in to the police on Monday, July 20, 2020. The two women were strip searched and all were required to dress in jail jumpsuits and were placed in holding cells. During their five hours in custody, they were exposed to the coronavirus by jailers and detainees, who were not wearing masks The nine who were detained at Tuesday’s protest were SOS leaders and members as well as some supporters from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Poor People’s Campaign for a Moral Revival. The nine arrested were: Hank Sanders, Selma attorney and former Alabama State Senator, Faya Rose Toure (Sanders), his wife and civil rights attorney, Martha Morgan, retired University of Alabama law professor, Queen Tate, Yomi Goodall and Judson Garner, SOS members; Ellen Degnan and Danna Sweeny with SPLC, and Stephanie Bernal-Martinez with the Poor People’s Campaign. All who were arrested on Tuesday, were released in a span of two hours on their own recognizance. One White male was made to strip down to his underwear and put on a prison jumpsuit. No-one in custody was strip searched this time. At press time it is not clear what charges will be brought against the nine who were arrested. The five SOS and BLM activists, Karen Jones, Faya Rose Toure, Johnny Ford, John Zippert, and Kamasi Amin (Juan McFarland II ) were charged with “defacing public property”, a misdemeanor, for the early incident of writing in the street. They have been assigned a September 21st court date. Attorney, Civil Rights Activist and former Municipal Judge Faya Rose Toure, who was the only person arrested at both protests, said: “My arrest and jailing on Monday was the most humiliating experience of my life. I have been arrested multiple times in various cities in this state and country over more than five decades in civil disobedience protests in the fight for human rights, but never was I strip searched and never was I exposed to danger like I was in Montgomery in the city jail. “The five of us all wore masks, but none of the other inmates with whom we were held wore masks not nor did all of the jail employees. This is dangerous not only for us but also for our families and all those with whom we come in contact. In addition to being embarrassing and dangerous, it was also hurtful to me because I was almost arrested in Montgomery last year for passing out voting materials during the campaign in which Steven Reed was elected Mayor. But I intend to keep fighting for human rights. I intend to keep fighting to expand Medicaid. I intend to keep fighting to save lives in Alabama.” “Former Tuskegee Mayor and State Representative Johnny Ford said: “We have been fighting for the expansion of Medicaid in Alabama year after year after year. Alabama must expand Medicaid to save lives in Alabama. Expanding Medicaid would save the lives of an estimated 700 Alabamians per year – and that is before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.” Several parents of children murdered while in the custody of the City of Montgomery Police and Jail voiced their complaints about the injustices of the city’s jail and justice system. The parents of Steven Matthew Seal and Tony Lewis Jr. gave testimonies about the unfair treatment of their children. Persons interested in joining or supporting SOS in future demonstration may contact SOS through their website, Facebook page or by writing: SOS Survival Fund, 838 So. Court Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104; phone: 334-262-0932.
The City of Montgomery issued warrants for five participants in the Thursday, July 16, 2020, SOS protest on the steps of the State Capitol. The five were involved in spray painting the words “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” in the street in front of the State Capitol. They were not charged at the time, but subsequently over the weekend they were charged with “defacing public property” a misdemeanor by the City of Montgomery.
The five: former Mayor of Tuskegee, Johnny Ford, Attorney Fay Rose Toure of Selma, Karen Jones, Montgomery community activist, John Zippert, Co-Publisher of the Greene County Democrat and Chair of the Greene County Health Services Board of Directors, and Kumasi Amin (slave name Juan McFarland II), a Black Lives Matter member, voluntarily turned themselves in at Noon on Monday, July 20, 2020. In discussions with the group’s lawyers, the group was assured that they would be released on signature recognizance bonds. Once in the hands of the Montgomery Police, the five were handcuffed and processed as common criminals under the arrest protocols of the Montgomery police. They were held for more than five hours, until their signature bonds were issued and approved by city and police officials. The two women were strip searched and put in prison jump suits. The men had to surrender their shoes, pants, shirts and other possessions and were issued prison jump suits to wear. All five were photographed, fingerprinted and given a plastic armband. The three men were placed in a large holding cell with two other detainees. The five SOS protesters, three of whom are over the age of 70, entered the jail wearing masks, to protect from exposure to the coronavirus. They were issued new masks once in the jail, however the other prisoners in the holding cell and some of the jailers were not wearing masks. Mayor Johnny Ford said, “The police were trying to humiliate and intimidate us the whole time were there. Something I expected to take 15 minutes took more than five hours. They were trying to teach us a lesson.” Faya Rose Toure said, “We were mistreated and misheard by the Montgomery Jail staff. Why was it necessary to strip search us and ask us to hold our butt cheeks and cough three times. Then they put us in a situation where we could have been exposed to the coronavirus. The saddest part was that all of the jailers were Black people, who basically had their jobs because of our civil rights activism from the 1960’s onwards.” Karen Jones said, “We were treated disgracefully and exposed to the coronavirus all because we wrote some needed words on the streets of Montgomery. They also found a nine year old traffic violation for me and charged me with that as well. The Mayor, Police Chief and other Montgomery officials are more concerned about the pavement than the people of our city.” Each of the protestors was given a September 21, 2020 court date to pay a $500 fine or argue their case before a city judge. They each had to pay a $35 fee for recording their signature appearance bond. On Thursday, July 16, 2020, the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) conducted a protest on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. The protest was about several interrelated issues, including: ending police brutality and passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; highlighting the health disparities revealed by the coronavirus pandemic, which have contributed to the disproportional effects of the pandemic on Black, Brown and poor people; urging Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which would provide affordable health care coverage to more than 340,000 people in Alabama; supporting the release of non-violent prisoners in state and county prisons and jails, to prevent them from contracting the virus; and ending voter suppression by the State of Alabama and allowing every person to vote without barriers. This was not the first time that SOS has held protests on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. The organization has held these protests and caravans, every two weeks since the beginning of March 2020. Some of the protests have been also been held at the Governors Mansion and Montgomery Federal Courthouse. John Zippert said, “I have attended each of these protests and spoke out at the press conferences specifically on behalf of Medicaid Expansion and Saving Rural Hospitals. At all of the protests, we have worn masks and gloves and stood stood at least six feet apart, following social distancing recommendations. “ During the protest on Thursday, July 16, 2020, while some of our colleagues were “dying-in” on the Capitol Steps, a group of us, armed with yellow spray paint cans started writing: “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” in the street directly in front of the State Capitol. My hope was that Governor Ivey would see the writing and be prompted to take positive action on the demands of the protest.” While the SOS members were writing in the street, they attracted a dozen or more Montgomery and State police. The police told them that they should stop writing in the street but did not physically stop them. They put hands on Karen Jones, an SOS leader and community activist, but did not stop her. Zippert continued, “ A photograph with this story shows the writing in the street. I personally wrote the word “Expand” as part of Expand Medicaid. We did not have time to add “Now” at the end of Expand Medicaid. “This is the third time in the past three years, that I have been arrested for civil disobedience in Montgomery, in connection with protesting for Medicaid Expansion. The first time was with an SOS group that held a prayer vigil inside the Alabama State Capitol for Medicaid Expansion; the second time was with a group connected with SOS and the Poor People’s Campaigned that poured catsup on the statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, which stands in front of the State Capitol. Both times we were acquitted by City Judges without fines or a criminal record.
“ During a week that we mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis and Rev. C. T. Vivian, I feel good about getting into “good trouble” trying to change the recalcitrant policies of the State of Alabama.”
Prayers of protest leaders to Expand Medicaid, Increase Testing and Save Lives Montgomery, AL – The Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy held a caravan on May 7, 2020 with numerous cars circling the Alabama Governor’s Mansion downtown to urge Governor Ivey and others to expand Medicaid, save rural hospitals and focus COVID-19 resources to those most in need. After circling the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Montgomery, instead of the usual press conference, leaders held a prayer conference. Leaders were asked to take one minute or less to address their issues in uplifted prayer. Attorney Hank Sanders said: “I pray that God will open the minds and hearts of Governor Ivey and other Alabama leaders so that they will immediately implement the expansion of Medicaid and will focus the pandemic resources to those most in need. I pray that God will strengthen the hand of the Governor so with a stroke of the pen she will expand Medicaid. I pray that those who are protesting to open up Alabama economically will also pray that the Governor will open Medicaid expansion in our state.” World Conference of Mayors Founder Johnny Ford said: “I pray that our national leaders will do whatever it takes to limit the deaths and number of people who are getting the coronavirus. I pray that they will open back up the window for Medicaid coverage so people who now qualify can become covered.” Civil Rights Advocate Attorney Faya Toure said: “I pray that people whose workplaces are too dangerous will not be forced to work and they will be able to get unemployment benefits if they choose not to work as a result of unsafe work environments. They should not have to choose between work with the possibility of death and survival – both physically and economically.” Chair of the Greene County Health System, John Zippert, said: “I prevail upon state leaders to save rural hospitals, not only during this pandemic but also from now on. Rural hospitals must be strengthened economically, staff wise and in every way so they can keep serving the people of rural Alabama and other areas.” Community Advocate Karen Jones said: “I pray the state will truly embrace testing and tracing, so that everyone who wants to get tested can do so without cost and so that people will know when they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive. I pray this because for Alabama to safely open, we must have available testing and tracing for all. Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan said: “I prevail upon the leaders of Alabama not to forget those in jails and prisons. I ask that their hearts will be touched in a way that they will let those who are not dangerous to the public out of prisons and jails and those who are in jails but have not been convicted out while they are pending trial. I ask that prison and jail sentences will not be death sentences because of COVID-19 as both prisons and jails have become hotspots for the virus. I urge our leaders act to save lives.” During the SOS National Day of Prayer Caravan and Prayer Conference at the Governor’s Mansion in Montgomery, black and white balloons were again tied to the cars in the caravan and released at the end of the prayer conference in recognition of the lives lost and the lives in jeopardy in Alabama right now. For more information, contact the SOS Movement for Justice and Democracy website and Facebook page.
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 Montgomery, AL – We, leaders in the SaveOurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, are here on the steps of the Alabama Capitol standing up six feet apart so Alabamians will not have to be lying six feet under. We are profoundly concerned about the coronavirus pandemic here in Alabama. We are deeply concerned that people who need tests cannot get tests. We are strongly concerned that rural hospitals have closed with even more on the verge of closing, and those that are there will not be able to be provide all the services that this coronavirus will require. We are deeply concerned for the health care – or profound lack of health care – for the working poor in our state. We were strongly concerned and vocal long before the coronavirus pandemic. We believe that the lack of health care for too many in Alabama will be exacerbated, not only during this pandemic but long after the pandemic. We are in the biggest crisis this country has seen in a long time. Alabama is in its biggest crisis in a long time, and it is incumbent upon each of us to do what we can to deal with this crisis and the crisis that will follow. A data analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found Alabama ranks among the top six most at-risk states for its adult population. Forty-six percent of Alabama adults are at risk. If we do not address this head on now, many more Alabamians will get the coronavirus and too many will die when we could take steps now to prevent that. Therefore, we are here, standing six feet apart so fewer Alabamians will not be lying six feet under. We know we take a risk by being here, even with all of our precautions, but the risk of not standing up and speaking out now and not expanding Medicaid now is profoundly greater. That is why we are here. Attorney Faya Toure said: “I have a friend who had all of the symptoms of the coronavirus but could not get a test because, after being in line for hours, they told her a doctor had to refer her. People without health insurance have a hard time getting a doctor who will refer them. We must have tests for every person who needs a test in every county in the state. If we expanded Medicaid, Alabamians would have a much greater chance of getting tests and saving lives. In addition, the Black Belt has been ignored throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and that has not changed. There are no reported cases in the Black Belt because there is no testing in the Black Belt. We can and must do better.” John Zippert said: “I am Chair of the Board of the Greene County Hospital System. Rural hospitals in Alabama are struggling mightily just to exist. Too many have closed and more will be closing. Rural hospitals need to be able to provide these services while the coronavirus is raging but also be able to provide necessary services after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided. And it will only subside if we take action now. Medicaid expansion would protect rural hospitals and citizens in rural hospitals, and it cannot wait. In fact, it is long overdue in Alabama. There are 340,000 human beings in Alabama, most of them working poor, who would benefit from Medicaid expansion. We must do something immediately.” Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan said: “There are so many Alabamians at risk because they have compromised immune systems, autoimmune disorders, are mentally ill, have dementia, are in foster care, are in prison or jail or detention and more. There are already plans to triage these Alabamians when it comes to treatment of the coronavirus, which means they very well would not receive any treatment and many will die if Governor Ivey fails to take action. We must do what we can do in Alabama. And we can expand Medicaid now.” Founder of the World Conference of Mayors and former State Representative and Mayor Johnny Ford said: “Too many people’s heath is at risk. Some people are even at risk for death. The coronavirus pandemic is increasing the risks to health and the risk of death. Fifty-five years ago today, on the last day of the Selma-to-Montgomery March, leaders spoke powerfully at this Capitol demanding voting rights. We are here today demanding that health care be a right as is it in all other developed countries. We begin with Medicaid expansion. I want to also add that it is has been the mayors of our state who have stepped up and taken the lead in protecting Alabamians during this coronavirus pandemic, and we thank them for their leadership, courage and wisdom.” Attorney and former State Senator Hank Sanders said: “I was here 55 years ago today when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked the question, “How Long?” about voting rights and other rights. I and the rest of the massive crowd responded, “Not Long!” We are here today standing six feet apart so that Alabamians will not be lying six feet under. Dr. King asked, “How Long?” 55 years ago, and today we are asking, “How Long” will it be until Alabama expands Medicaid so that the working poor can have health insurance and health care so they can stand a chance to be tested and treated, not only during the coronavirus pandemic but afterwards? I hope and pray the answer to “How Long? is “Not Long!”
The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) held a press conference on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama to call for Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama State Legislature and the public to use the celebration of the Alabama Bicentennial to “remember, recognize and rectify the state’s racial history.
SOS is a movement comprised of more than 40 statewide organizations in Alabama focused on improving the lives of all Alabamians. Sanders said, “We call upon Alabama to use this occasion of the celebration of the Bicentennial to remember all the history of the State of Alabama and to recognize the wrongs committed in order to repair and to restore the deepest hope for Alabama’s future.”
“This year Alabama is celebrating its Bicentennial – the 200th anniversary of our state’s founding. It is good to celebrate, but we need to understand what we celebrate. We need to know that we can do better. We need to correct that which we did not do right. To celebrate Alabama’s Bicentennial without acknowledging all the history of Alabama – including the taking of Native American lands, the enslaving of Black people, and the taking of the dignity and rights of Black Alabama citizens during Jim Crow segregation – does not lay a strong foundation to build the next 200 years,” said attorney and former State Senator Hank Sanders at a news conference on the steps of the Alabama Capitol today at noon.
“To celebrate the Bicentennial without changing the present does not truly the 200 years since Alabama’s founding. Alabama has hundreds of thousands of citizens without medical care, and Alabama can do something about that right now. All it has to do is expand Medicaid. That would be a true celebration of Alabama’s first 200 years,” said John Zippert, Chair of the SOS Health Committee and Chair of the Board of the Greene County Health System.
“The advertisements for the Bicentennial show Native Americans, African Americans and Whites, and that is good but it is misleading. The Confederate monuments still stand on Capitol grounds, and a statute of Dr. J. Marion Sims still stands on Capitol grounds. We can truly honor these 200 years by removing the Confederate monuments and putting up monuments to those who fought to preserve the United States of America, including the 6,000 Black soldiers from Alabama who served in the Union Army,” said attorney and Civil Rights activist Faya Rose Toure.
“The promotions of the Bicentennial honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Booker T. Washington, but there are no statues on the Capitol grounds recognizing them. As we go into the next 200 years, in the spirit of unity we need to start by expanding Medicaid, removing from the Capitol the statutes of those who fought the legitimate government of the United States, and including statutes of people who fought for and lifted those who were excluded. Today is International Human Rights Day, which is especially appropriate because we need to acknowledge the denial of human rights in Alabama’s past,” said Martha Morgan, attorney and Law Professor Emerita at the University of Alabama School of Law.
The Greene County Democrat is publishing a Guest Editorial, by Attorney Faya Rose Toure, on page 4 of this newspaper, which gives more details on the concerns which prompted the SOS press conference.
Dr. Marcia Pugh, CEO and Administrator of the Greene County Health System reported that she received a check for $72,000 from Sheriff Joe Benison. This check represents an additional distribution of funds paid to the Sheriff by electronic bingo operators for the month of October 2019. Sheriff Benison said, “ I know that the Greene County Health System is in dire need of additional funds to serve the health needs of Greene County residents. I am awarding these funds and looking into finding other resources from electronic bingo for health care.” Dr. Pugh said, “We are grateful and thankful for these additional funds. We will use them immediately to update our computer network and systems, help to move the CT scanner from an outside mobile unit into the hospital imaging center and to pay some of our outstanding bills.” The Sheriff of Greene County is designated as the regulator of electronic bingo in Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, which governs the establishment, operation and regulation of electronic bingo in Greene County. In October 2017, Sheriff Benison amended the bingo operating rules to provide $25 per bingo machine, per month, for payment to the Greene County Health System for support of health care for Greene County residents. The assessment for the healthcare system is in addition to the $200 month license fee for each bingo machine operated by bingo charities and organizations in the county. The Sheriff distributes these license fees to county agencies, including his own bingo operations office, the Board of Education, municipalities and the GCHS for healthcare. Since November 2017, the GCHS has received $45,000 per month toward general operating support, which has helped to cover operating deficits and allow the hospital, nursing home and affiliated services to remain open and operating to serve the people of Greene County. “We have recently received additional funds and donations from churches and community organizations to help improve our facilities and supplies at the hospital, nursing home and physicians clinic. These additional funds from bingo will help us to continue to upgrade and improve our healthcare services,” said Dr. Pugh.