‘SOS Five’ given new court date

SOS leaders hold press conference in front of Montgomery Justice Center, L. to R. Karen Jones, Kamasi Amin, John Zippert and Faya Rose Toure, Ellen Dungen in background.

On September 21, 2020 the ‘SOS Five’ went to the Montgomery Justice Center for arraignment on misdemeanor charges for “defacing public property” writing “Black Lives Matter and Expand Medicaid Now”, on July 16th, in the street in front on the Alabama State capitol in Montgomery. The SOS Five planned to plead “not guilty” at the hearing.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the City of Montgomery Court was not in session, and the court appearance was rescheduled for November 23, 2020.
Four of the five SaveOurselves and Black Lives Matter leaders were present: Karen Jones, Faya Rose Toure, Kamasi Amin and John Zippert. Former Mayor Johnny Ford had an attorney to postpone his hearing because he was dealing with a family health emergency.
The ‘SOS Five’ turned themselves in on July 20, 2020 and were held in the Montgomery City Jail for five hours and exposed to coronavirus, by staff and inmates, who were not wearing masks and were not socially distant.
The two women, Karen Jones and Fay Rose Toure were subjected to a full body strip search, including their private parts, as part of the jail processing routine. The men in the group were not strip searched but had to strip to their underwear and don prison jumpsuits.
The SOS leaders spoke to the press before going into the Justice Center. “We are innocent and we will plead not guilty because we are not guilty. We demand that these unnecessary charges be dropped. All we did was try to use our Constitutional free speech and freedom of assembly rights to send a message to Governor Ivey and the people of Alabama,” said Fay Rose Toure of Selma.
Kamasi Amin said,” Young people like me, I am 26 years old, must get involved in this struggle to end police brutality and provide health care to all of our citizens especially in this time of the coronavirus pandemic. Black Lives Matter!”
Karen Jones said, “I am deeply concerned and offended at the way we were treated and strip searched by the Montgomery police. We are seasoned and educated activists, who know our rights. What are they doing and how are they treating average ordinary people who are arrested in Montgomery? The Mayor and the City Council must investigate this and change their policies and procedures.”
“I did write Expand Medicaid in the street, with spray paint in front of the State Capitol, because I wanted Governor Ivey to see it. The misdemeanor, we may have committed, was for a greater purpose of alerting the Governor and the public to the denial of health care to over 340,000 working poor people,” commented John Zippert, who is also Co-Publisher of this newspaper.
The ‘SOS Five’ and eleven other demonstrators who were arrested two weeks later by Montgomery City Police at another demonstration on the steps and street in from of the State Capitol still await trial.
The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy will be back protesting for Medicaid Expansion, equity in the fight against coronavirus, and police killing of unarmed Black, Brown and poor people, at the State Capitol steps in Montgomery on this Thursday, October 1, 2020. For more information or to support the SOS, contact through Facebook and the Internet or call: 334/262-0932.

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 plans rally at Statehouse in Montgomery on April 30th to push for Medicaid Expansion in Alabama

State Senator Malika Sanders Fortier address press conference. Others present on stage (L to R) are: Robyn Hyden, Karen Jones, John Zippert, Mayor Johnny Ford, Jeanette Thomas, Martha Morgan, Jeffrey Jones and Shelley Fearson.

Montgomery, AL – Members of Alabama SOS, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, held a news conference today, Thursday, April 11, at 12:00 p.m. the 3rd Floor Press Room of the Alabama State House to address the dire need for expansion of Medicaid in Alabama.
John Zippert, Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee said: “We are planning a rally at the Alabama State House for Tuesday, April 30, 2019 to alert the Governor, the Legislature and the public to the importance of acting to expand Medicaid immediately.”
He went on to say, “We have to do more to bring about Medicaid expansion in Alabama. Lives literally are depending upon it. Whatever it is required, we have to do it because citizens are dying, hospitals are closing, and access to medical care is diminishing. It is not enough to talk anymore. We have to do more, and SOS will do more.”
“Expanding Medicaid to reach the working poor will help 300,000 people who are currently uninsured to gain coverage. Currently, these folks fall in a gap between being not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid and not rich enough to qualify for insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Expanding Medicaid to serve this group will also be an economic development program to provide 30,000 new jobs in health care and related fields. It will touch every county in the state,” said Zippert.
Johnny Ford, Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee and Founder and Leader of the World Conference of Mayors said: “We have given the Governor and the Legislature every opportunity to expand Medicaid. They not only have failed. They never tried. In the meantime, people keep dying and hospitals keep closing.
“We have to do everything in our power to move the Governor and everyone who is involved to implement Medicaid expansion in our state,” said Ford, who is also Board Chair of the National Black Leadership Commission on Health.
Robyn Hyden, Director of Alabama Arise, said: “There are several options to fund Medicaid expansion. Removing the federal income tax deduction for Alabama taxpayers, for example, would generate $719 million in new income tax revenue. This deduction primarily benefits people in the top 20 percent of taxpayers. This would allow the state to not only fund Medicaid expansion, but would also allow the state to remove the sales tax on groceries.”
Senator Malika Sanders Fortier said: “Health care is even more important than public education. Education helps us to live better. Health care helps us to live. I am calling upon everyone in a leadership position to move to implement Medicaid expansion right now. It is a matter of life or death in Alabama.”
SOS is comprised of more than 40 statewide Alabama organizations committed to justice and democracy. Other SOS members who spoke at the press conference included Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan of Tuscaloosa County, Karen Jones of Montgomery, Faya Toure of Selma and Jeffrey Jones of Mobile.
Persons interested in participating in the rally should contact the SOS office through: alabamanewsouth.org or by calling 334-262-0933.

Black voters and organizations express concerns about Senator-elect Doug Jones on staffing, sexual harassment and critical issues

Alabama Senate Race

News Analysis
by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones, whose election will not be officially certified until the end of the week, is already experiencing concerns and questioning from Black voters about his positions on critical issues, staffing of his Washington D. C. and local offices and remarks he made on a Sunday news show seeming to excuse President Trump’s sexual misconduct with numerous women.
“Black voters, who delivered Jones’ victory want him to be accountable on the issues he will face as Senator and the staffing of his offices. There is nothing wrong with Black voters feeling this way. We need to be awake and aware – after an election and hold candidates that we supported accountable for their promises and statements during the election.” said Attorney Faya Rose Toure, Co-Chair of the ‘Vote or Die Movement’.
Twenty-three community based organizations signed and sent an open letter last week congratulating Jones on his win and calling on him to fulfill specific commitments to the constituents who put him in office on issues of voting rights, health care, criminal justice, ending mass incarceration, living wages and environmental justice.

“The ticker tape for the Jones victory has barely been swept from the floor and we are already seeing him pandering to the right and stepping away from the interests of the people who elected him,” said Latosha Brown, co-founder with Cliff Albright of the Black Voters Matter Fund.
Cliff Albright said, “We are here to let Doug Jones know that the voters in Alabama did not turn out in mass numbers for his personal gain. He was elected to represent the needs of his constituents. Organizers worked hard to galvanize the Black community, and we have every intention to hold him accountable.”
The open letter to Doug Jones has been signed by 20 Alabama organizations serving the Black community and other people of color, including the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Alabama Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice, Center for Fair Housing, Inc (Mobile), The Ordinary People’s Society (TOPS), The Greene County Democrat (this newspaper) and the NAACP chapters of Tuskegee-Macon and Dothan, Alabama.
The letter calls on Jones to adopt intentional methods to hear directly from his constituents like listening sessions, town halls, and people assemblies.
National Civil Rights Groups push Jones for fair staffing

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank for Black elected officials, has signed a letter with other organizations encouraging Jones to hire a diverse Senate staff, which is sadly lacking among Democratic-elected officials.
“The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and 16 other leading civil rights groups sent a letter urging Senator-elect Doug Jones to commit to hiring a staff that reflects his constituents’ racial diversity,” said the letter dated December 19th. “In Alabama, Blacks account for more than 26 percent of the state’s population.
The Joint Center noted that people of color accounted for more 36 percent of the U.S. population but only 7.1 percent of top Senate staffers in Washington, D.C. African Americans account for just over 1 percent of top Democratic U.S. Senate staff in Washington, D.C. and just over 2 percent of top Republican U.S. Senate staff. Senior Staff in these studies is defined as chief of staff, legislative director, communications director, and committee staff director.
Top Senate staffers manage the Senate’s legislative agenda and shape the $3.9 trillion U.S. federal budget. They also oversee the Senate confirmation process for federal judges, cabinet secretaries and U.S. ambassadors.
“Senator-elect Doug Jones has an incredible opportunity to increase diversity among U.S. Senate staff,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center.  “The Joint Center and many of our partners stand ready to work with Senator-elect Jones to identify a deep and broad pool of diverse candidates.”
Some of groups that signed the letter include the NAACP, Lawyers for Civil Rights Under Law, the South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship and Training and the National Action Network.
The letter reminded Jones of the so-called “Rooney Rule”, a National Football League policy initiated by Pittsburgh Steelers patriarch Dan Rooney. The rule requires NFL teams to interview racial minority candidates for senior jobs. “As you may know, earlier this year the Senate Democratic Caucus adopted the Rooney Rule, a commitment to interviewing at least one person of color for senior staff positions. We ask that you embrace this caucus rule and interview people of color for senior positions in your respective offices,” the letter states.

Women’s’ issues also raised with Jones

Karen Jones an active member of the Save Ourselves Movement for Democracy and Justice expressed outrage after hearing comments made by Senator-elect Doug Jones on the Sunday morning CNN State of the Union program. Jones in answer to a question from Jake Tapper said he did not support calls by other Democratic Senators that President Trump resign because of sexual harassment allegations made by numerous women and corroborated by Trump’s own “Access Hollywood” tape.
Karen Jones said, “I felt violated. We had worked for Doug Jones, brought him into our churches and community meetings, voted for him in overwhelming numbers and now five days after the Dec. 12 election, he is on TV exonerating President Trump for sexual harassment before he even gets sworn-in as a Senator.”
Jones said she was working with other Alabama women, who supported Doug Jones, to write him a letter asking for a retraction of his statements on sexual misconduct by the President and a clarification of his stand on other critical issues. “After all 98% of Black women voted for Doug Jones and 98% can take him back out if he doesn’t do or act right,” said Karen Jones.