Newswire: ‘Enough’: Tuskegee Councilman Johnny Ford takes saw to Confederate monument in town square

Johnny Ford standing by Confederate statue

By: Melissa Brown and Kirsten Fiscus, Montgomery Advertiser

Before Johnny Ford drove into downtown Tuskegee and climbed into an electronic lift bucket with a saw on Wednesday, he prayed. When the saw touched the concrete ankle of the Confederate soldier statue perched over the town square, he remembered.  Ford remembered his childhood friend, Sammy Younge, a Black Navy veteran and civil rights worker gunned down in 1966 after asking to use a whites-only bathroom. Ford remembered Tuskegee University students streaming into town streets when Younge’s accused killer was acquitted, attaching chains and ropes to the towering monument to the Confederacy in a failed effort to pull it from its pedestal.  “I pledged then to remove the statue,” Ford said. On Wednesday July 7, 2021, Ford attempted to fulfill his pledge to remove the “painful” Confederate memorial from the heart of his hometown. In the early afternoon, Ford and another, unidentified person began sawing at the leg of the downtown statue.  “I was doing it for Sammy Younge. And the students who tried to pull the statue down,” Ford said. ” … The message has been sent. Everybody has just been waiting on someone to do it. It’s my council district. It’s my responsibility to do it. The people elected me, in this district. This is the first time the county and city government have taken a position to see it removed. Of course, they haven’t been able to do it because of the legal [implications]. They’re afraid of the threats from the Legislature and the attorney general. But I’m not afraid of the governor and the attorney general.” Ford said the two stopped sawing at the request of Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson, who got wind of the attempt Wednesday afternoon and came to the square.  “Looks like he had a chop saw or something. I told him he wasn’t going to destroy the statue, not knowing he’d already chopped through one ankle,” Brunson said. “… He said he was doing it for whatever reason, and I told him he’s not going to destroy it. He was talking about what it stands for, and I told him I’m not going to allow you to commit a crime in front of me.” Ford said he moved to physically remove the statue from its platform, not damage it, after his council district constituents voted in a public meeting last week to take action. Brunson said Ford and others could face multiple charges, including destruction of property. Ford could also face civil penalties under Alabama’s Monument Preservation Act, which prohibits a local government from legally removing a monument 40 years old or older. Cities that do so face fines up to $25,000.  “I welcome that. Sometimes you have to get into good trouble in order to bring about change,” Ford said, referencing a familiar refrain from the late civil rights leader John Lewis. “During the ’60s, we were fighting for voting rights and we went to jail. We did what we had to do. This issue is very, very serious with me. This statue represents slavery. It stands for the Confederacy, whose fight was to keep slavery. My forefathers were enslaved. I take that very, very seriously.” In a telephone interview with the Greene County Democrat, Ford said, “ The Confederate statue is now on its last leg, we hope it will soon b e removed since the City Council and County Commission have voted that it be moved from the Tuskegee Town Square.”

Nine more arrested at Tuesday’s SOS protest for Medicaid Expansion at State Capitol in Montgomery

By: John Zippert,

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.

Five arrested at SOS protest at State Capitol for ‘defacing public property’ for painting ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Expand Medicaid’ in street in front of Capitol

By: John Zippert,

Photo taken from a building across the street, showing “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” written in the street in front of State Capitol in Montgomery.

Four of the persons arrested (L to R in front row) Kumasi Amin, Faya Rose Toure, John Zippert, Karen Jones together with lawyers and supporters after release from jail; not shown Mayor Johnny Ford.

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.”

SOS continues campaign for Medicaid Expansion linking the campaign to other critical issues in Alabama 


The Save Ourselves (SOS) Coalition for Justice and Democracy continued its campaign for Medicaid Expansion with a rally today (May 21, 2019) at Noon on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama.
  John Zippert, Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee declared, “ We came to the steps of the Alabama State House last Tuesday and said we would be back each Tuesday that the Alabama Legislature is in session until the Governor and the State Legislature approves Medicaid Expansion. We also agreed to link this critical health care issue to other important issues facing the people of Alabama, such as the fight to defeat Alabama’s new draconian law against women’s right to an abortion, inaction on prison reform and the suppression of voting rights.”
  “SOS brought a “Citizens Arrest Petition for Governor Kay Ivey” to the Capitol steps and we attempted to serve it on her at the end of the rally, “ said Johnny Ford, former Mayor of Tuskegee and Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee. 
  The Citizens arrest writ simply says that the people of Alabama condemn the actions of Governor Ivey in failing to Expand Medicaid, to save the lives of 500 or more Alabamians each year; in signing the bill making it a crime for women to have an abortion in Alabama, which will result in hundreds of additional deaths; and the failure to enact prison reforms, required by a government report of atrocities in Alabama’s prison system.Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will provide health care coverage to 300,000 low-income working people in the State of Alabama. These people are caught in a payment gap where they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid ($4,600/year) and too little to qualify for subsidized health insurance on the ACA health insurance marketplace. The Federal government will be responsible for 90% of the cost of this health care with Alabama paying 10%.
  Beyond the moral issue of failing to provide health care for all of its citizens, Alabama has lost more than $10 billion by not expanding Medicaid over the past decade that it was available. The state has also lost 30,000 good jobs in the medical field by not expanding Medicaid. The tax revenues from these new taxpayers would help to pay the 10% burden on the state of Alabama. The economic development impacts of expanding Medicaid would be shared in every county of the state.
 Expanding Medicaid would help our financially troubled hospitals in Alabama, especially those in rural economically depressed areas, by providing a payer source for the working poor who need medical care the most.  
  Faya Rose Toure, SOS Steering Committee member said,
“SOS must join forces with other groups Alabama to fight for justice. The recently passed legislation, which Governor Ivey signed without hesitation, would criminalize abortion in the state. This will make it harder especially for younger poor women, Black and white, to have access to abortion. This law must be challenged and reversed. Why would you consider life so scared for the unborn and then deny life-saving healthcare to those same children and their parents for the rest of their lives.
 “ We invite women who feel that their health care during pregnancy and beyond is being challenged by the Legislature and Governor Ivey to join with SOS in fighting for Medicaid Expansion and against draconian abortion restrictions, which do not include exceptions for rape and incest,” said Faya Rose Toure.
 Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan, the SOS Justice Committee Co-Chair points out that the state’s failure to act on prison reform is linked to Medicaid Expansion. “The Legislature and Gov. Ivey have not acted on the Department of Justice report on devastating conditions in Alabama prisons, including the lack of medical care and services for the incarcerated. We must join together to fight for Medicaid Expansion, criminal justice reform, and abortion rights.”
“We will be back next Tuesday, May 28, 2019 to continue to push for Medicaid Expansion, “ said Johnny Ford.
  SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy is a coalition of forty social justice organizations in the state who are working to improve conditions for poor and people of color in the State of Alabama.
 For more information contact: Shelley Fearson – SOS Office – 334/262-0932.

SOS alerts voters to urgency of Medicaid expansion

Shown above ANSC President John Zippert, Latasha Brown, Shelly Fearson, Senator Hank Sander, Jeanette Thomas, Johnny Ford and Faya Rose Toure


The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) a coalition of forty social justice organizations in the state, held a press conference at the State House in Montgomery, Alabama. State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma said, “We are here today to alert voters, candidates and the press to the importance of healthcare and the expansion of Medicaid in the November General Election. Governor Ivey, as Governor, can take the step of expanding Medicaid for thousands of people.” A study by the Kaiser Foundation indicates that 500 to 700 people each year in Alabama are likely to die without Medicaid expansion – so this is a matter of life and death. The Alabama Hospital Association, a trade association for over 100 hospitals in the state says, “If Alabama expands Medicaid, almost 300,000 uninsured Alabamians would receive health insurance coverage, an estimated 30,000 jobs would be created, and $28 billion in new economic activity would be generated.  Alabama would also save millions of dollars on current state services.  “On average, in Alabama, almost one out of every 10 hospital patients does not have health insurance, resulting in more than $530 million annually in uncompensated care,” said Danne Howard, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Alabama Hospital Association.  “Currently, 75 percent of Alabama’s hospitals are operating in the red, meaning the dollars they receive for caring for patients are not enough to cover the cost of that care.  Expanding Medicaid would be a significant investment in the state’s fragile health care infrastructure and would help maintain access to care for everyone.”

“In Greene County because we are a poor county, one in three patients do not have any insurance, which means we provide an average of $100,000 in uncompensated care per month. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would help people in our county whose earn less than 138% of poverty (approximately $20,000 annual for a family of four) to secure affordable health insurance coverage,” said Dr. Marcia Pugh, Administrator of the Greene County Health System. Former Mayor of Tuskegee, Johnny Ford said “The SOS Health Committee would be remiss if we did not point out that Medicaid expansion is the issue, which must be in the forefront of voter’s minds as they go to the pools in one week. Walt Maddox and the Democratic candidates for statewide office have pledged to expand Medicaid to 300,000 working poor people on their first day in office. Incumbent Governor Kay Ivey has not expanded Medicaid during her tenure. She says that the state cannot afford the costs of expanding Medicaid. She is also supporting a proposed rule change, which will eliminate 70,000 caregivers from Medicaid unless they meet a work requirement, which will also make them financially ineligible for Medicaid coverage. Maddox says that Alabama needs to help its neediest people to receive health insurance coverage to improve healthcare and economic opportunities in the State of Alabama.” John Zippert, SOS Health Committee Co-chair pointed out that since 2010 when Medicaid expansion has been available under the Affordable Care Act, Alabama has lost $7 billion in Federal support under the program. For the first three years of the program, there was no cost to the states to participate. This has increased by 2.5% a year until it reached the maximum 10% this fiscal year. In addition in coming years beginning in 2020, the disproportionate share reimbursement rate payment to rural hospitals will decline because the program assumes coverage for low-income people in the state by Medicaid expansion under the ACA. Rural hospitals in states like Alabama, that have not expanded Medicaid, will begin to take a “double-whammy” for not expanding Medicaid – more patients without insurance coupled with lower reimbursement rates. Danne Howard, with the Alabama Hospital Association, notes that a recent study showed that hospitals in expansion states were 84 percent less likely to close than hospitals in non-expansion states.  “Alabama has had 12 hospitals close since 2011, and more are on the verge of closing if something doesn’t change,” she added. “Plus, the economic impact in other states has been tremendous; Louisiana has added 19,000 jobs; nearly 50 percent of new enrollees in Ohio have been able to receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, and the state has seen a 17-percent drop in emergency department use; Kentucky has seen an increase in state revenues of $300 million.” SOS calls this critical issue to the attention of voters and urges every registered voter to vote on November 6, 2018 with the need for equitable health insurance coverage in mind.

Alabama’s rural hospitals are on life support Legislature claims victory in adjourning early while ignoring life-saving issues Alabama SOS again calls for Medicaid Expansion in Alabama


Shown above John Zippert Chair of SOS Health Committee addresses crowd


Montgomery, AL – Members of Alabama SOS, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, held a news conference, Tuesday, March 27th, at 11:30 a.m. in the 3rd Floor Press Room of the Alabama State House to address critical and time-sensitive health care issues facing the State of Alabama.
John Zippert, Chair of the SOS Health Committee said: “We are concerned about the State of Alabama’s requesting a Medicaid rule change that would affect 8,500 Medicaid caretakers in our state, denying them Medicaid coverage. The rule requires they show they are earning a mandatory wage. These 8,500 people are taking care of Medicaid-eligible children and/or seniors and adults. They are hardworking Alabamians caring for others, but they are not earning a wage that would provide them Medicaid coverage under this rule.

“For these Alabamians to be covered under this new rule, they would no longer be able to care for other Medicaid-eligible Alabamians, who are either children or adults or seniors in much greater need. This makes absolutely no sense. This is part of a national trend that is needlessly hurting people in Alabama and other states by putting political rhetoric ahead of facts and dollars and sense.”
“SOS is urging everyone who disagrees with Governor Ivey’s shortsighted and meanspirited effort to impose a work requirement on Medicaid caretakers to write the State of Alabama Medicaid agency expressing our concern and opposition.. Each of us has the opportunity to email our comments by April 2nd at and by mail to Administrative Secretary, Alabama Medicaid Agency, 501 Dexter Ave., P.O. Box 5624, Montgomery, AL 36103-5624,” said John Zippert, SOS Health Committee Co-Chair.
Johnny Ford, SOS Health Care Committee Co-Chair and founder of the World Conference of Mayors, said: “Because the State of Alabama has not expanded Medicaid coverage, small rural hospitals across Alabama are being hurt, threatened with closure, or closed. Many of the people coming to these hospitals were supposed to be covered by Medicaid but currently are not. This is harming the area where I live as well as rural areas throughout our entire state. If these hospitals close, all people in these areas will be directly hurt.”
Another critical issue SOS addressed is the ongoing failure of the State of Alabama to expand Medicaid coverage. “Expanding Medicaid would be a huge economic boon to our state,” said Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders. “More than 30 states across the country, including in the South, have already expanded Medicaid. Alabama tax dollars are going to help people in other states instead of the people of Alabama.”
Zippert, who is also Chair of the Board of the Greene County Health System and President of the Alabama New South Coalition added: “Medicaid reimbursement – including the disproportionate share that rural hospitals already receive – has been even further reduced by the failure to expand Medicaid. People who have insurance are also going to pay higher premiums in Alabama because we have not expanded Medicaid. So many Alabamians are paying the cost because the State refuses to expand Medicaid”
“Rural hospitals are on life support,” said Ford, “and the Governor could save them with the stroke of her pen. The Alabama Legislature is proud to be adjourning early this week claiming their work has been done while rural hospitals across the state – both in Black and White communities – are threatened with closure every day. This can be fixed with Medicaid expansion. We need action – not today, not yesterday, but years ago. But we will take action today. The Legislature’s work is not done nor is the work of the Governor.”
SOS is comprised of more than 40 statewide Alabama organizations committed to justice and democracy. Members of the SOS Health Committee led today’s news conference.