Medicaid Expansion, COVID death rates and John Merrill’s racist tweets SOS joins in protests with other organizations at the Alabama State Capitol

The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) has been protesting at the State Capitol in Montgomery, every other week, since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic began in Alabama.
The focus of the SOS demonstrations has been to persuade Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature to expand Medicaid to cover 300,000 or more people, caught in the gap between Medicaid eligibility and coverage on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. The expansion would assist people whose family income was up to 138% of the poverty level, with Federally subsidized health insurance coverage.
SOS also highlighted the issue of the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on Black and Brown communities, especially the Alabama Black Belt; high coronavirus rates in Alabama’s jails and prisons; and the overall inequities of the treatment of Black, Brown and poor people by the health care system.
During most of October and into November, SOS members suspended protests to concentrate on the General Election on November 3 in local communities. SOS is also working to help in the Georgia Senatorial races with funds, phone banking and possible trips to assist people with canvassing and poll watching.
In the last few weeks SOS has joined with other organizations in Alabama to continue protests for issues related to its general mission and objectives. On September 10, 2020, SOS sponsored a march and demonstration from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, up to the Capitol Steps in Montgomery, with six people in wheelchairs and several more on walkers from around the state.
September 22, 2020, SOS joined with the Poor Peoples Campaign of Alabama in a demonstration on the steps of the State Capitol to take a pledge to join the “National Non-violent Army for Medicaid Expansion”. The Alabama protestors joined those in Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, where people are coming together in “Medicaid Marches” to demand their right to health and healthcare.
These Medicaid Marches are being led by the uninsured and underinsured, unhoused people, low-wage, essential and undocumented workers, healthcare workers, clergy, and others. The marches are the first coordinated nationwide push of the Nonviolent Medicaid Army, a vehicle to build the power of poor and dispossessed people, led by those on or excluded from Medicaid, which remains the only public healthcare option for the 140 million poor and low-income people in the country. This emerging new force is modeled after what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned as a “multi-racial, intergenerational, nonviolent army of the poor.”
In 2018, there were 87 million people who were uninsured or underinsured. This year, close to 12 million people have already lost their employer-sponsored healthcare. Millions fall into a coverage gap where private insurance is too expensive but their income is above the Medicaid cutoff.
Approximately 22,000-27,000 die every year from being uninsured. And state legislatures around the country are making it clear that they will seek to fill the budget holes created by the pandemic-triggered global economic crisis by cutting life-saving public programs like Medicaid.
In Alabama, 500 to 700 people a year are dying because Governor Ivey has been unwilling to expand Medicaid coverage under the ACA. This prompted John Zippert, SOS leader and Chair of the Greene County Health System Board to charge that “Gov. Ivey is a mass murderer for not expanding Medicaid.”
Rev. Liz Theoharis, Co-Chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign says, “Fully funding Medicaid, and expanding it to all U.S. residents, is not beyond our means. Just one military contract could cover the cost of expanding Medicaid in 14 states. Although we are constantly sold the lie of scarcity, we have the money to fully fund universal single-payer healthcare, if only our government wanted to.”
On this Monday, November 23, SOS joined with the Poor Peoples Campaign in a caravan to surround the State Capitol in Montgomery to memorialize the more than 250,000 people nationally, who have died from COVID-19. Of the dead, 3,500 are Alabamians.
On Tuesday, November 24, members of SOS joined with Project Say Something (PSS) which is committed to confronting racial injustice in Alabama, demanding accountability from the Alabama Secretary of State. In recent weeks, Mr. John Merrill has used his personal Twitter account – where he describes himself as “Representing the People of Alabama as their 53rd Secretary of State” – to retweet and promote hate speech and harsh language designed to divide and intimidate Alabamians.
As community voices and trusted leaders, PSS believes it imperative to hold elected officials accountable for their public behavior and use of racist, anti-Black rhetoric in public forums. John Merrill’s actions reflect poorly on the office he holds and disrespects the vast majority of constituents he has been entrusted to serve. SOS worked with PSS to demonstrate on the steps of the Capitol.
For more information contact SOS through its website and Facebook pages as well as contacting ANSC at 838 South Court Street in Montgomery; phone 205/262-0932.

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.