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Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 12:19pm

Moral Mondays Georgia: Same Battles, New Protests

Hundreds of protesters met outside Governor Nathan Deal’s office Tuesday morning to present a petition calling for Deal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The group is part of a movement called “Moral Mondays,” which started in North Carolina with a similar goal.

The Georgia group organized several events during this the legislative session, but this protest was the first one since lawmakers adjourned.

GPB reporter Claire Simms has been following Moral Mondays Georgia activities since they started earlier this year. She joined All Things Considered host Ellen Reinhardt to discuss Tuesday’s protest.

Here’s an edited transcript:

ELLEN REINHARDT, GPB All Things Considered host: Let’s start with this… this is Tuesday. The group has traditionally been rallying on Mondays… why today?

CLAIRE SIMMS, GPB Reporter: This morning’s event was a continuation of a protest staged yesterday outside the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta. About 200 people wearing ponchos and with signs wrapped in plastic stood out in the soggy weather for almost 3 hours to rally for Medicaid expansion.

(Audio) “These are working people. These are unemployed people. White, black, gay, straight, male, female, young, old, rich and poor—and we’re saying that Georgians deserve better.” (Rev. Raphael Warnock)

That was Reverend Raphael Warnock from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and one of the leaders of Georgia’s “Moral Mondays” movement. He and others had brought the petition with them and hoped to deliver it to the Governor’s official home Monday, but security officers never let them past the gates. So instead they decided to drop off what they say are 50,000 signatures at the Governor’s office.

REINHARDT: Reverend Warnock mentioned the diversity of the people participating… what role does that play in their efforts?

SIMMS: Monday’s event was the largest by far of any the group has organized. One of the members of the Moral Mondays council, Jackie Rodriguez, says mobilizing people for one day is extremely difficult—let alone week after week. But she says the diversity of people and groups coming together is a point of strength. Rodriguez believes having a group made up of church organizations, political organizations, student organizations—means they are casting a wide net.

(Audio) “A multi-pronged approach to outreach is really necessary. You know, we have volunteers that are coming in and making hundreds of phone calls. We have volunteers coming in and sending emails, sending out tweets and Facebook alerts and more importantly, going out armed with the information and reaching out to people on a personal level and that’s able to bring everyone, you know-- multigenerational, different faiths--all together to really converge around those issues so that we can present a united voice.” (Jackie Rodriguez)

SIMMS: The group has several issues they are confronting. They are hoping to convince Governor Deal to veto several measures legislators passed this session—including the bill that expands gun carry to bars and churches, the bill that restricts abortion insurance coverage and the bill that limits the Governor’s power to expand Medicaid —but Rodriguez says the group agrees that Medicaid expansion is the most important issue for them to tackle right now.

REINHARDT: So where does “Moral Mondays” go from here?

SIMMS: Members of the group really feel like they have some momentum, especially after yesterday’s event.

Here’s Peggy Marx from Norcross…
“There is excitement in the air. I feel the winds of change, they are a ‘blowin and we just keep picking up steam. Every new action gets new people involved, new groups. I’ve met just so many people. Moral Mondays is awesome.”

“Moral Mondays Georgia” has organizational meetings every Wednesday night in Atlanta, but they are working on reaching out to more people across the state. And Reverend Warnock said today they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“Folks who thought we would make some noise for a few weeks and then go quietly in the night, but the issues obviously are too critical for us not to continue to raise the issue.”

SIMMS: The group is currently organizing a march for April 21st—and yes, that’s a Monday.

ELLEN: Thanks, Claire.