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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Moral Monday Georgia, undaunted by rain, kicks off outside Gold Dome

Protesters plan to rally every Monday - and possibly risk arrest - to convince Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid
  • Joeff Davis
  • Protesters plan to rally every Monday - and possibly risk arrest - to convince Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid
More than 200 people gathered outside the Gold Dome on Monday to participate in the first of many "Moral Monday" protests urging Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid in the state.

The group, which included all ages, races, and backgrounds, plans to build a grassroots network similar to what started in North Carolina in early 2013. The coalition, which spent the hours before the rally studying policy and lobbying lawmakers, plans to rally every Monday at the Capitol to demand Medicaid expansion from Deal.

Georgia Capitol Police stood quietly outside while protestors called for the governor to make the federal health care program available to more people living on low incomes. Their demands were simple and straightforward: Medicaid expansion now.

Barbara Adel, a single senior citizen, said that because she does not have any dependents, she is ineligible for Medicaid, leaving her to rely solely on Medicare, which does not adequately cover the cost of her health expenses. She said Georgians "don't want to choose between having food, heat, or medicine."

Ronnie Mosley, a 22-year-old Morehouse College student and founder of the Millennial's Movement, a youth think tank, said he agreed with Moral Monday's objectives and felt the group's first protest "finally put a face to the organization."

Noreen Francis, a 56-year-old office manager for a law firm, stood in solidarity with the activists, saying, "The lack of medical coverage should not send you into the poorhouse." She considers herself an ally to the cause because not expanding Medicaid is "another knock on Obamacare."

Organizers of the event said the group was formed in response to efforts by the Republican Party to repeal the Voting Rights Act and make cuts to social programs. Its members plan to practice nonviolent civil disobedience to challenge what they consider to be the GOP's extremist agenda.

"It is more than a political movement," said state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta. "It is a movement about morals and values, what is right and wrong. The right wing has co-opted the argument about what is moral and immoral. Moral Monday believes it is immoral to take away people's voting rights. It is immoral to deny health care, it is immoral to intrude on the rights of the woman to choose her health care."

Leaders at the rally said Medicaid expansion could prevent hundreds of deaths in Georgia and save cash. The rally attracted public support from religious and social leaders, including the Rev. Charles White Jr., NAACP National Field Director, and Dr. Francis Johnson, president of Georgia's NAACP. They challenged Deal's opposition to the Medicaid expansion on a moral and fiscal level.

The Rev. William J. Barber II, the president of North Carolina NAACP and co-founder of the Tar Heel State's Moral Monday movement, said not expanding Medicaid threatened a "democracy that places the common good above all."

A Deal spokesman told WSB-TV that Medicaid expansion would cost the state nearly $3.5 billion and wasn't a fiscally responsible move. Deal also questioned the reliability of the federal government to provide such assistance. During his State of the State speech on Wednesday, Deal said he wouldn't be coerced into expanding Medicaid.

The group plans to meet outside the Gold Dome again next Monday - and the following Monday - to demand Deal change his mind.

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