Capitol sit-in over Medicaid brings arrests

State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and nine other Moral Monday Georgia supporters were arrested inside Gov. Nathan Deal’s office Monday after refusing repeated police orders to leave.

State Sen. Vincent Fort
State Sen. Vincent Fort

The demonstrators wanted Deal to accept their letter urging him to expand the state’s Medicaid program, as called for under the 2010 federal health reform law.

Fort and the other protesters, who included members of the clergy, sat in the reception area of the governor’s office Monday afternoon while they waited for Deal, who never emerged. Outside, on the Capitol steps, about 50 people shouted their support for the protest group in Deal’s office.

Officers of the Georgia State Patrol and Capitol Police handcuffed the demonstrators after they refused requests to leave Deal’s office about 5 p.m. They were escorted individually out of the Capitol building for transport to an Atlanta jail.

The Moral Monday Georgia movement, a coalition of civil rights groups, churches, labor unions and health care groups, targets public policy issues that negatively affect poor and working-class people.

The incident Monday was the group’s second protest of the 2014 General Assembly session. At a rally two weeks ago, Fort pledged that the protesters would engage in nonviolent civil disobedience if Deal ignored their demands to expand Medicaid.

The health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, calls for Medicaid expansion. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2012 decision on the law, ruled that expansion is optional for the states. Roughly half have decided against such a move.

Deal has been firm in rejecting Medicaid expansion, citing the financial burden on the state. Republican legislative leaders have supported that stance, and with the GOP firmly in control of the state General Assembly, not much is expected to happen to move expansion forward during the current session.

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), in fact, plans a news conference Tuesday to tout legislation that would prohibit state employees, state agencies, public colleges and universities from enforcing and implementing the Affordable Care Act.

In their letter to Deal, the Moral Monday protesters stated, “Georgia should take advantage of new federal funding to expand Medicaid in 2014 to boost Georgia’s economy and create tens of thousands of new jobs, all while extending health coverage to 650,000 Georgians.” Those who would benefit from the expansion are the state’s working poor, they said.

Two weeks ago, Moral Monday demonstrated on the Georgia Capitol steps.
Two weeks ago, Moral Monday demonstrators gathered on the  Capitol steps.