Monday, March 23, 2015

Four Georgia Women Arrested in Senator McKoon's Office After Requesting a Meeting with Him Regarding RFRA Bill

Today a group of women was arrested with Moral Monday Georgia and coalition partner Georgia NOW, attempting to deliver a message to Sen. Joshua Mckoon regarding HB 129. Commonly referred to as the "religious freedom bill" this GA House version of the nationally known RFRA bills has been called a "license to discriminate bill" and is a hot button issue for groups working on LGBT Rights, Ending Violence Against Women, and Reproductive Justice. According to Jackie Rodriguez, President Georgia National Organization for Women, "This bill has far reaching consequences for the health and well being of the women and Georgia. This will not only effect the LGBT community, who is already lacking protection under Georgia law, but it will also be essentially declaring open season on women in this state. We are providing a state sanctioned bill to commit violence against women and roll back what little reproductive rights we have left in this state."
Megan Harrison, Lorraine Fontana, Emma Stitt, and Jessica Reznicek, were arrested attempting to delivery signs to Sen. McKoon that ready "No RFRA Yes WOMEN" and were quickly met by capital police. Despite the fact that McKoon was present in the office he refused to meet with the women , having them arrested instead. Refusing to leave until they could pass there messages along to the Senator, they were quickly escorted out by capital police and detained. On the eve of the pending committee vote for HB 129, Emma Stitt and Jessice Reznicek are refusing bond, committing to remaining in custody until the bill has been voted down by the House Judiciary Committee.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Civil Disobedience at the Georgia Capitol

Photo by Steve Eberhart
Last year Georgia lawmakers failed to expand Medicaid in our state, falsely claiming that Georgia couldn’t afford it. Over a year later the results have been disastrous. The four rural hospitals listed that Medicaid Expansion would have kept open have been forced to close their doors Charlton Memorial Hospital, Folkston Ga, Hancock Memorial Hospital, Sparta Ga, Lower Oconee Hospital, Glenwood Ga, Stewart Webster Hospital, Richland Ga. According to the Institute of Southern Studies almost 1,200 Georgians needlessly died in 2014 along because Medicaid was not expanded.

An estimated 650k regular everyday Georgians, like Athens resident Adam Lassila, could receive life saving preventative care with Medicaid Expansion. Adam, who will attend Monday's rally states, "I recently suffered a serious head injury. I was able to receive high quality health care without incurring thousands of dollars of debt only because I was lucky enough to hurt myself in Argentina, instead of my own state, whose stubborn and inhumane political ploys have thrust me into the horrible gap where the Medicaid expansion should be."

Photo by Jim Chambers
In an effort to curb the extreme forward motion toward a healthcare system that strongly resembles a third world nation, Moral Monday Georgia brought Georgians from around the state together Monday for a day of learning, lobbying, and bold direct action in the tradition of Kingian Nonviolence.

After a very spirited press conference inside the Georgia Capitol 12 Georgia residents, all part of the Moral Monday Georgia movement, went to their knees and blocked the south steps of the Capitol with a clear message, “Hospitals are closing, people are dying”. Sometimes we run out of words to say; we have made all the points there are to make; published all the reports about the healthcare crisis in Georgia.

Photo by Steve Eberhart

With Georgians who are loved and needed dying everyday and live saving hospitals shutting down we simply can’t afford to walk away from the fight to expand medicaid. Now is a time for bold drastic action. Monday’s arrestees ended up spending 17 hours in jail but in doing so forced the issue back into the spotlight in Georgia. We sincerely hope Georgians keep pushing; keep fighting; keep organizing for a state that puts real people before dogmatic politics.

We encourage those that can to contribute to the Georgia Civil Disobedience Fund to support bold actions like this.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Community Sets Up Camp Outside DeKalb Courthouse Demanding Justice for Kevin Davis

Tents were set us to keep folks warm
Wednesday afternoon, AFSC was part of a small delegation that met with DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander about the Kevin Davis case. For those that don't know, Kevin Davis called 911 after his girlfriend had been stabbed. Police showed up, walked into his home, and shot and killed his 3-legged dog. Kevin assumed that the person that had stabbed his girlfriend was back, and grabbed an old gun that apparently didn't even work. At no point did Kevin threaten the officer, or point the gun at anyone. Police shot Kevin multiple times, and then arrested him for aggravated assault. Kevin's family wasn't allowed to see him as he slowly died over the course of several days. 

Kevin's Niece Reads a Letter to Her Uncle
Yesterday, Kevin would have been 45 years old. Kevin’s family, friends, and co-workers called for a vigil at the DeKalb County Courthouse yesterday, to mourn his murder at the hands of police, and call attention to their demand that the DeKalb County DA call for a GBI investigation. The fact is that the police account of what happened when they responded to the 911 call dramatically differs from eyewitness accounts. The vigil was powerful. Family and friends spoke about the kind of man Kevin was. 

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Kevin’s niece, who will go unnamed, as she is a minor, was upset that her family had not received an apology for her uncles murder, said, “Since the police officer or any other higher authority will not step down from their position to apologize, I will. I’m sorry for what they did to you. You didn't deserve it, you are a good man, and I just want to say happy birthday". 
Kevin's Sister Delisa Davis

Kevin's sister, Delisa Davis, tearfully said,“it's been 30 days since my brother was shot, but it still feels like yesterday. We want the DeKalb County DA to allow the GBI to investigate Kevin's murder”.

    In an effort to force a spotlight onto the issue, a coalition that included AFSC, The Gen Y Project, #ItsBiggerThanYou The CommUNITY, Rise Up GeorgiaMalcolm X Grassroots Movement, and others, decided to pitch tents at the courthouse and stay the night in 30 degree whether, risking arrest. Dozens braved the cold together, and passed out thousands of fliers around the courthouse in the morning, making the family's demands for a GBI investigation crystal clear to the DA.
Community Members Hold Strong After 2am

 Of course, there are broader implications here.The very safety of the community is in question. Is it safe to call 911 for black and brown people in DeKalb County? Can police be trusted to investigate themselves after they shoot a man and his dog in his own home? 

Some of the press coverage from the sleep out:


Friday, January 23, 2015

Michele Swan Arrested by Henry County SWAT Team After Fighting Wrongful Eviction

Michele Swan has been locked in a struggle to gain ownership of her home ever since a contentious divorce from her husband, Triveni Omar Singh, in 2012. Despite being granted ownership of the home in her divorce, Ms. Swan was ignored by Chase bank when trying to transfer ownership, and ultimately the home was foreclosed on; sold on the Henry County Courthouse steps to an investment firm.

American Residential, the group that bought the property, has continually refused to negotiate with Michele despite her efforts to buy back the home. Instead they opted to break into the home and remove all of the items of value; furniture, electronics, clothes, and personal momentous. Michele reported the theft to the local police department and detectives asked for entry to the home to discuss the burglary. Per Henry County detectives Michele’s personal items and everything of value was removed and placed off site by American Residential.

Since the foreclosure Michele has been subject to one difficultly after another in her attempt to regain legal control of her home. After being evicted by WRI Group, a property management firm affiliated with American Residential, Michele reclaimed her home in an attempt to rectify the unjust sale to American Residential.

After occupying the home publicly with support from community members for weeks, and receiving no response from American Residential, Michele and her allies where removed from the home by Henry County Police by over twenty officers. After Michele and supporters complied with an order to leave the property, Michele was arrested for criminal trespass and remains in custody at Henry County Jail, supporters are working towards her release.

Update: Michele has been denied bond and has been charged with criminal trespass, theft by taking, and burglary. This is a sad precedent to set for nonviolent housing justice protesters. Tonight there will be a vigil at the Henry County Jail.

There was a time in this country that women were not recognized as land owners, and claims to property by women were not considered legitimate; that dark chapter in American history is supposed to be closed. It is a cruel irony Michele had a rightful claim to her families home, and has been begging the financial institute that profited from Michele's clear injustice to sell her the home at a more than fair price(FYI Michele's loan has been pre-approved for months); yet tonight she sits in a jail cell with fairly serious charges.

It was just years ago that Wall street and the big banks crashed our economy and over 11 million Americans lost their homes and even more lost all of their wealth and NONE or the architects of the worst fraud in human history face jail time...but there's Michele Swan surrounded by a SWAT team for standing up to a system that continues to stack the deck against regular everyday people.

We also encourage everyone to sign and share Michele's online petition and follow the hashtag #Justice4Michele on twitter and instagram. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Georgia Law Enforcement Reform Package Introduced

Yesterday American Friends Service Committee joined Senator Vincent Fort, The Moral Monday Georgia Movement, the Davis/Bozeman Law Firm, Georgia WAND, Georgia NAACP, and the Coalition for the Peoples Agenda to introduce the Georgia Law EnforcementReform Package.

We believe that all deserve to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We are troubled that black and brown Georgians continue to experience police brutality, mass incarceration, racial profiling, and excessive police tactics at an alarmingly higher rate than white Georgians.

Just this past year in Habersham, Georgia law enforcement used a “No Knock” warrant to storm an innocent family’s dwelling and in the process tossed a concussion grenade into Baby Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh crib. This ended up almost claiming the baby’s life, blowing his face off.

In 2006 police used a “No Knock” warrant to break down the door of 92-yearold Atlanta resident Kathryn Jonhston and fired 39 shots at her, killing her. Later they planted drugs on her to justify the horrendous act.

Our communities don’t need urban tanks and other military equipment that are used to seeing in a war zone. We believe the mere presence and training that come with this unnecessary equipment makes our communities less safe and increases potential for human and civil rights violations. When we use military gear and vehicles in certain communities it makes those communities feel like they are under occupation, when we treat community members like war combatants we move farther away from the Beloved community Dr King spoke of and closer to the nightmare her preached about in 1967 when we articulated what he called the giant triplets of evil; Militarism, Racism, and Poverty.

This legislative session a broad Law Enforcement Reform Package is being introduced by a diverse group of Georgia law makers. We call on members of the Georgia House and Senate to pass all the bills. We believe this package will make Georgians safer, reduce the number of lawsuits for taxpayers, and reduce the amount of unnecessary equipment (like urban tanks) and the cost to taxpayers associated with them. Institutional racism and the troubling trend toward a militarized police state runs deep and will not be solved overnight; we believe these bills are a step in the right direction.

Below are the bills that make up the Georgia Law Enforcement Reform Package:

SB 45 (Fort, 39th) – “Bou Bou’s Law ”

This legislation would restrict no-knock warrants to situations where the affidavit or testimony supporting the warrant establishes by probable cause that if an officer were to knock and announce identity and purpose before entry, such act of knocking and announcing would likely pose a significant and imminent danger to human life or imminent danger of evidence being destroyed.


SB 46 (Fort, 39th) – Police Body Cameras

This legislation would require all police departments’ officers with wearable cameras by 2017.  It would also instruct the Department of Public Safety to create procedures for grants to small or underfunded police departments, subject to funding. 


SB 47 (Fort, 39th) – Hate Crimes

This legislation would increase criminal penalties for crimes committed against an individual intentionally selected because of such individual's race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or national origin.  Increased penalties would mimic the increased penalties for crimes against senior citizens. 


SB 48 (Fort, 39th) – No Guns for Violent Felons

Prohibit restoration of gun rights to convicted felons who had been convicted of violent crimes, sexual offenses, or crimes involving firearms


SB 49 (Fort, 39th) – Stand Your Ground Repeal

Repeal Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law


SB 50 (Fort, 39th) – Special Prosecutor for Police Cases

This legislation would require the appointment of a special prosecutor for cases when a police officer is the suspect


Pending Bills

*Police demilitarization

*Require police to report civilian deaths to GBI
The Moral Monday Georgia Movement will be mobilizing people from around the state to come together at the Capitol to support the Package, click here for details.