After being arrested as part of a demonstration against the state's refusal to expand Medicaid coverage to uninsured Georgians this week, the Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson, a Statesboro lawyer and the president of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, vowed to continue fighting on behalf of the poor, workers, voting rights and public education.
The Georgia NAACP issued a statement Wednesday night saying that it and the Moral Monday Movement would hold a news conference Thursday at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to "stand in solidarity with the 41 individuals arrested in peaceful protest at the State Capitol and announce post-legislative plans for the progressive movement in Georgia."
Johnson and the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist were among those arrested Tuesday at the Capitol.
"This fight is about what is in the common good of all Georgians and not the privileged few," Johnson said in the statement. "This spring of our legitimate discontent - with politicians of both parties who have taken legislative actions preventing the expansion of Medicaid, intruding on women's reproductive health-care rights, restricting workers' rights, cutting funding from public schools in an election-year shell game, while attempting to roll back voting rights and practically (eviscerating) gun control laws by allowing guns to be carried into bars, churches and even schools - will pass into a summer of education, outreach and activism modeled on the Freedom Summer of 1964."
According to a Georgia Capitol Police incident report, Johnson was among 12 members of the Moral Monday Coalition who "decided to engage in an act of civil disobedience, by disrupting the Governor's office at the Georgia State Capitol" at about 1:55 p.m. Tuesday, the second-to-last day of the 2014 legislative session. They sat down in front of the entrance to the governor's office, the report says, "and began singing."
"Once they obstructed the office, they were ordered to cease and desist their illegal activities by Georgia State Patrol Sergeant Wicker #650," the report states. "The group refused to comply and had to be handcuffed and led away from the area by state troopers and capitol police officers."
In its news release, the Georgia NAACP said the demonstration was the ninth organized by the Georgia Moral Mondays Coalition. In all, 72 people have been arrested since January at the Capitol, the NAACP says.
Thursday was the last day of the legislative session. The NAACP said the session "was advertised as a short legislative session focused on the budget."
"Instead, politicians have driven a right-wing agenda that promotes corporate greed over people's needs; denies health care to over 600,000 uninsured Georgians; has cut over $7.6 billion from public education in the past 10 years; accelerates income inequality by restricting workers' rights and benefits; attacks women's reproductive freedom; promotes bigotry towards the (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community; enables gun violence through ‘Stand Your Ground' and ‘Carry Anywhere' laws; and seeks to restrict our voting rights," the Georgia NAACP's statement says.
The Georgia NAACP credited the North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement, led by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP, with the progressive movement that "is sweeping across the South."
"I stand with my faithful brothers Warnock and Johnson who peacefully engaged in civil disobedience, not intending to be arrested, to demand that they be heard on these matters of life and death to their communities," Barber said. "In Georgia, like in North Carolina, people are tired of lawmakers pushing these morally indefensible, constitutionally inconsistent and economically insane policies."
Last month, the Georgia NAACP said, 23 people were arrested as they attempted to talk to a state senator about his refusal to allow a gun control bill to move forward that would have repealed the state's Stand Your Ground law, which the civil rights organization says "has sparked outrage across the nation for allowing the killers of black men to avoid serious criminal culpability and punishment."
Florida's Stand Your Ground law was used as a defense for George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer who was acquitted after he fatally shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., in February 2012 on the grounds that he feared for his life. Michael Dunn was found guilty on lesser charges but not of the most serious charge, murder, in the November 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who like Martin, was unarmed. Dunn also said he feared for his life after he confronted Davis and others in the car next to him parked outside a Jacksonville, Fla., convenience store over loud music.
In January, 10 demonstrators went to jail over Deal's decision to deny the Medicaid expansion, earning them the moniker "The Medicaid 10," the Georgia NAACP said.
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.