Poor Peoples Campaign ‘moral witnesses’ at Jefferson Davis statue in front of State Capitol. (Photo by K.C. Bailey)
The fourth week of civil disobedience by the Poor Peoples Campaign, A National Call for Moral Revival came to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery on Monday June 4, 2018. This week the Poor Peoples Campaign focused on issues of health care, expanding Medicaid and environmental justice.
Seven moral witnesses were arrested for throwing a shroud over the statute of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, which stands inn front of the Alabama State Capitol. The witness wrote “Traitor” and “Shame” on the shroud.
They were arrested when they squirted ketchup on the shroud and statute to symbolize the blood that has been shed by poor and Black people from slavery until today because of white supremacy and inequitable public policies.
Coincidentally, Monday June 4 was the official state observance of Jefferson Davis’ Birthday (actually on June 3) as a state holiday. Alabama is the only state left in the nation that still celebrates this day as a holiday for state workers.
The arrests came at the end of a rally attended by 150 people who were concerned about issues of health and environmental degradation in Alabama that affect poor people. The failure of the State of Alabama to expand Medicaid to those, whose incomes are up to 138% of poverty, means that 300,000 mostly working people are excluded from the insurance benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
Alabama’s decision not to extend Medicaid means a loss of billions of dollars to the state in health care, the failure to create 30,000 new jobs in health care fields and the intensification of pressure on rural hospitals who must serve people who do not have insurance without a source of payment. Many rural hospitals have closed and others are in danger of closing because of the resources they are losing because Medicaid has not been expanded to help pay the health care costs of the poor.
Several persons testified at the rally about their own personal experiences with the health care system in Alabama and the difficulties they face in securing critically needed health care and medicines in the state. Some testified that their relatives had died because they could not afford health care under the present circumstances.
At the conclusion of the rally, a smaller group of the moral witnesses surrounded the statute of Jefferson Davis, to help celebrate his birthday by bringing attention to the connections between slavery, traitorous acts of the Confederacy, Jim Crow laws, the current problems of massive incarceration of Black youth, police brutality and the public policies of neglect, highlighted by the unwillingness of states like Alabama to extend Medicaid.
Seven of the moral witnesses: William Gaston, Dana Ellis, Rev. James Rutledge Jr., Tony Algood, Jimmie ILachild, Rev. Kenneth Tyrone King and John Zippert (Co-Publisher of the Greene County Democrat), were arrested, handcuffed and sent to the Montgomery County Jail for processing. They were charged with Criminal Tampering – 2nd Degree, a misdemeanor offense, for pouring ketchup on the statue. The Poor Peoples Campaign bailed the seven out of jail by 9:30 PM.
These seven moral witnesses join hundreds of other people from around the country who have been arrested since the revival of the Poor People Campaign in mid-May. The Campaign is led by Rev. William Barber of North Carolina, who is working to focus attention on the unfinished business of ending poverty and inequity in our nation. The civil disobedience campaign will continue for two more weeks and then the Poor Peoples Campaign will decide on its next moves and strategy to generate a movement to end poverty and injustice.
For more information go to www.poorpeoplescampaign.org.