Gov. Nathan Deal is going to have some visitors to the capitol on Jan. 13, and they won’t be there to compare recipes.
The first Georgia-based event of the grassroots social justice movement Moral Mondays will occur, organized by the new group Moral Monday Georgia. The issue of the day will be the governor’s decision not to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid [see accompanying article on Medicaid expansion], and the schedule includes legislator visits, a workshop and a rally outside the capitol featuring numerous speakers.
Moral Mondays started in North Carolina in 2012 to protest controversial laws passed by their Republican governor and legislature. Typically it is a civil disobedience protest, marked by a mass entrance into the capitol where many are peacefully arrested.
Moral Monday Georgia describe themselves as “a multiracial, multi-issue coalition of citizens working for positive change for the public good.”
“Georgia has gone hard right at a time when income equality is at its height, unemployment is high, we have the creation of an economy designed to provide low paying, dead-end jobs, and we need an effort to respond to that,” says State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-36), who will be speaking at the rally. “Moral Mondays is exactly that kind of effort.”
Speakers in addition to Fort will include Rev. Timothy McDonald III from First Iconium Baptist Church, Georgia NAACP President Francis Johnson, North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber, and Georgians directly affected by lack of access to Medicaid.
The arrival of Moral Mondays has local activists like Tim Franzen excited. Franzen, from the Quaker social justice organization American Friends Service Committee, has been following the North Carolina movement.
“We’ve been really inspired and it’s like nothing we’ve seen since the civil rights movement,” he tells GA Voice. “It has forced people in North Carolina and all over the country to look at state budgets not as a random shopping list but as a list of our moral priorities.”
Gov. Deal’s decision not to accept federal funds for the Medicaid expansion is one such moral priority in the minds of the organizers and speakers.
“It is despicable for the government not to provide health care to Georgia,” Fort tells GA Voice. “LGBT people in particular need this expansion for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. It is as bankrupt a public policy as I’ve seen in my time in politics.”
Franzen is equally incredulous.
“It’s the ultimate insult to hardworking people, to struggling folks who are working their butts off at a fast food joint or Wal-Mart, and here’s an opportunity where they can get free healthcare,” he says. “We’re talking about real lives here, real beating hearts that are going to die because of ideological stubbornness. We find it unacceptable, both morally and fiscally.”
While the North Carolina version of Moral Mondays has included peaceful arrests for civil disobedience, don’t expect the paddy wagons to line up on Washington Street just yet. Organizers say the Jan. 13 event is more about setting the tone for future actions.
But, Franzen says, “We hope the governor will come to his senses and do what is morally right, and if not then people might fill up the jail.”
He says to expect more Moral Monday events addressing issues affecting the LGBT community in the future, depending on what bills are introduced in the upcoming general assembly session.
“If there is something that really attacks the LGBT community, then we’re going to be there.”