Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Moral Outrage disrupts Georgia Capitol

ATLANTA — There was a son of a sharecropper and an advocate for the homeless, a college student and a great-grandmother, a retired store manager and the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
By the end of the day, they were among the 39 people who were arrested Tuesday during choreographed waves of civil disobedience here at the state Capitol in protest of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. See slide show: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/us/protest-disrupts-georgia-senate-session-on-bill-to-block-medicaid-expansion.html?
They shouted slogans and unfurled banners from the Senate gallery, sang spirituals in the marble rotunda and held a sit-in blocking the entrance to the governor’s office.
The Moral Monday movement, which began last year in North Carolina, took firm root in Georgia on Tuesday, where the arrests at the Capitol were the group’s boldest action since it started protesting here in January. There were similar protests in South Carolina, where a smaller but persistent campaign of civil disobedience played out for the third week in a row.
The movements are rare stirrings of impassioned, liberal political action in a region where conservative control of government is as solid as cold grits and Democrats are struggling for survival more than influence.

The question raised by all three groups, which have echoes in at least four other states, is whether they can become more than an outlet for protests by liberal activists who feel shut out of state politics.
Proponents insist they are building a movement and are in it for the long haul.
“We are at the beginning of a new Southern strategy,” says Tim Franzen, 36, the lead organizer behind Moral Monday Georgia. “The changes we need to make in Georgia to transform the state are going to take years. But with the changing demographics of the South, our victory is inevitable. This train has left the station.”
If so, it may be a long, hard trip. While some supporters see a movement in its early stages, others, even many who are sympathetic, see an exercise in futility on the wrong side of the state’s political and cultural divide.
“The South belongs to the right wing,” says Ray Strother, 73, who has managed dozens of prominent political campaigns for Democrats across the South. “Moral Monday was just born out of frustration. It is a desperate battle for political relevance.”
Those odds did not dampen the fervor of the activists in Atlanta on Tuesday. Shortly after the State Senate opened for business, four people in the gallery leapt up, shouting and holding a banner saying “Expand Medicaid now.”

The protesters were handcuffed, charged with disrupting official business, and taken to the Fulton County jail. When the session was gaveled back to order, another group repeated the action, then another.

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