Moral Monday coming to Georgia State Capitol

First civil action against GOP-majority legislature set for Jan. 13

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Gov. Nathan Deal is going to have some visitors to the Gold Dome 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. Thousands of people showed up on Mondays to disrupt the legislative session with more than 900 willing to be arrested as part of their civil disobedience.

The protests began in North Carolina in April and were held weekly to protest laws being passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate. Organized by the NAACP and partner organizations, Moral Mondays opposed such laws as the state refusing to approve Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act as well as rewriting the state’s voting laws to place new restrictions on voters and overhauling the state’s tax systems. Gov. Pat McCrory, the first Republican governor in North Carolina in 20 years, signed all of these into law.

Georgians inspired by North Carolina’s movement

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,” said State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), 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. Barber started the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina.

The arrival of Moral Mondays has local activists like Tim Franzen excited. Franzen, from the Quaker social justice organization American Friends Service Committee as well as Occupy Atlanta and Occupy Homes, 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 told 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.

“That’s one of the exciting things about the movement ― it has this air of being rooted in religious values and the LGBT community is not only not left out, but they are a part of it. We’re all together, walking side by side. What we’ll be looking at this legislative session is connecting out actions to specific policy,” Franzen said.

“We’ll be looking for public policy that is problematic. We’re seeing bills that are going to drop, but as the session goes, there will be some that drop without any notice. We have brothers and sisters from all walks of life in our planning meetings. Everyone is welcome there. If there is something that really attacks the LGBT community, then we’re going to be there,” he added.

Moral Mondays GA
Fight for Medicaid Expansion
Jan. 13
10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ― talk to your representatives inside the capital building
2-3:30 p.m. ― Worship with Rev. Wiliam Barber, founder of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays, at Central Presbyterian Church
4-6 p.m. ― Rally at the Georgia Capitol