Arizona needs a ‘Moral Mondays’ movement

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The most fascinating political development of 2013 to observe was the rise of the progressive "Moral Mondays" movement in North Carolina in response to the radicalized extremist Tea-Publican controlled state legislature.

"Moral Mondays" engages in civil disobedience protests, organized in part by local religious leaders including William Barber, head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Members of the protest movement meet every Monday to protest an action by the North Carolina legislature and then enter the legislature building. Once they enter, a number are peacefully arrested each Monday.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently reported that a Moral Mondays organization was being established in Georgia. Your daily jolt: Moral Monday protests coming to state Capitol:

The Moral Monday protests that rocked North Carolina (and led to hundreds of arrests each Monday) last year may be coming to Georgia.

A group called Moral Monday Georgia (moralmondayga.org) has quietly begun gathering supporters and planning organizing meetings this month. They plan one of the first actions on the Jan. 13, the first Monday of the session, and the platform focuses on a call to expand Medicaid, restore funding to public schools and raising the minimum wage.

On Christmas Day, the AP reported that the "Moral Mondays" movement will spread to other Southern States (i.e., Red States). Moral Mondays to continue, spread to other states:

The Moral Monday movement to protest changes in North Carolina public policy that organizers believe are extreme and hurt the state won’t abate in 2014 and will spread to other states, its leader said.

Activists from a dozen states attended a meeting in Raleigh earlier this month to learn how to hold similar protests in their states.

“There is no stopping this deep, moral, constitutional critique of public policy,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, which began the protests. “It is a must.”

Among those attending the meeting in Raleigh was Democratic state Sen. Hank Sanders of Alabama, where groups were already holding Truth and Justice Tuesdays based on Moral Mondays. Georgia also plans to demonstrate against laws there.

“I think Moral Mondays in North Carolina is more advanced than in other states,” Sanders said. “This was an opportunity to learn exactly what they’re doing and find additional ways to fight these repressive laws. They have mobilized not just hundreds, but sometimes thousands of people to participate.”

The meeting helped Sanders, who was a part of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, but who said he still got tips on how to give Truth and Justice Tuesdays more impact when the Alabama legislative session resumes Jan. 14. “Sometimes people get hung up in Democrats and Republicans or get hung up in black and white,” he said. “What Moral Mondays teaches is that you attack extremism. You don’t attack Republicans or Democrats. You don’t attack whites or blacks. And it’s important to have a moral basis for fighting. You’re dealing with right and wrong.”

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More than 930 people, including Barber, were arrested during the 2013 legislative session as part of the protests as they moved weekly from the outdoors into the Legislative Building.

After the session ended, the NAACP held events across the state, including Asheville, where an estimated 10,000 people showed up. Barber, who was convicted of two counts related to the protest earlier this month, is appealing the District Court judge’s decision.

The protests will continue next year starting with a planned march in downtown Raleigh on Feb. 8 and continuing when the North Carolina General Assembly goes back into session next May 14, Barber said.

In addition to the protests, the North Carolina NAACP and other groups sued the state over the new voting law and will be back in federal court this summer, seeking an injunction to block provisions of it from taking effect until after a trial the following year. The law cut the early voting period by a week, increased access for partisan poll watchers and eliminated a popular high school civics program that encouraged students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays. Also at issue is a new requirement for voters to present government-issued photo identification cards at the polls starting in 2016.

The 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer is a big deal in North Carolina,” Barber said, referring to the 1964 campaign to register black voters in Mississippi.

The Moral Mondays protests will spread to Atlanta when the legislative session opens in Georgia on Jan. 13, said Tim Franzen, Atlanta economic justice program director for the American Friends Service Committee. “A lot of us are looking at it as a Southern strategy, the kind of Southern strategy that hasn’t existed in many decades,” said Franzen, who also attended the December session in North Carolina.

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Moral Mondays has a different underpinning than other protests because “we really are reclaiming the language or morality,” Franzen said. “Moral Mondays frames the discussion around these austerity measures, around morality. State budgets are not random shopping lists. They are our moral compass. … Our state budgets are immoral. And it’s important to frame it that way; that we look at state budgets as a moral priority list.

That first protest will focus on Georgia’s refusal to expand Medicaid there, he said, adding that Barber has agreed to lead a workshop that first day for the activists.

They won’t start with arrests, although participants are willing, Franzen said. “A lot of folks, regular everyday folks, have said they’d like to sign up to be arrested,” he said. “That’s not something an organizer experiences every day.”

Medicaid expansion is also one of the issues in Alabama, along with voter suppression, immigration and public education, Sanders said.

On the topic of the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer, Robert Kuttner recently posted at the Huffington Post, Needed: Freedom Summer 2014:

What we need is a new Freedom Summer 2014, half a century after the original. If the forces of reaction are demanding photo ID cards, let's just go door to door and make sure that every eligible voter gets one.

In the process, we can remind people why the right to vote in a democracy is precious, why it can make a difference. We can turn ID cards into a badge of active citizenship, and turn the politics of voter suppression on its head.

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A new Freedom Summer could reverse the impact of the attempted voter suppression and mobilize voters — not just to elect progressives but to demand a more responsive government. It could teach the right a lesson about citizenship and teach the Democrats something about leadership.

Kuttner followed up his post this week, More About a New Freedom Summer:

Last week, in this space, I proposed a "Freedom Summer 2014", aimed at ensuring that nobody would be prevented from voting next fall due to the lack of a government-issued photo ID card. The 5-4 ruling of the Roberts Supreme Court last June in Shelby County v. Holder, overturning major sections of the 1965 Civil Rights Act, permitted all sorts of mischief by Republican state officials aimed at raising obstacles to the right to vote.

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Not surprisingly, several groups already plan efforts to make sure that nobody is denied the right to vote. But the on-the-ground infrastructure in different states varies widely. Raising visibility and capacity through a unified campaign evoking the struggles of the civil rights era could make the whole bigger than the sum of its parts.

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Some people raised the question of whether reform groups, such as the Brennan Center for Justice that are litigating against the misuse of photo ID cards by rightwing officials, would support a campaign to get everyone a card. Would a voter-registration campaign lend legitimacy to the card requirement?

I actually think the two efforts are complements. The more that efforts were expended on getting people ID cards, the more it would smoke out attempts at voter suppression. That in turn would help litigators to identify and resist abuses.

Before a small army of students is turned loose to help people get photo ID cards to help them register to vote, there needs to be a critical mass of organizers who know the political territory. The NAACP is already planning a program called Freedom Summer 2014. Much of the NAACP's efforts will be a youth campaign pressing Congress to restore the sections of the Voting Rights Act overturned by the Roberts Court. That is crucially important work. A summer voter-registration campaign could be a complement.

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[A] mass voter registration campaign could not only defeat deliberate barriers to voting. It could remind citizens of the importance of making their voices heard.

And such a campaign could also help politicize a student generation that is eerily passive in the face of economic assaults that stunt their futures. If the training and organizing infrastructure can be created, tens of thousands of students could get summer stipends to go into the field. Some of them, just like their parents and grandparents, could go on to become lifelong activists.

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Fifty years ago, a generation of idealists bled and died to secure the right to vote. It is appalling, half a century later, that we have do this all over again. But we do.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that budgets are moral documents. Here in Arizona, our Tea-Publican controlled legislature is intellectually bankrupt and pursues an immoral budget and agenda that benefits the rich and powerful and economically disadvantages everyone else. They pursue a radical right agenda that is out of touch with the vast majority of Arizonans. Where are the progressive religious leaders — and I know there are many of you out there — who are willing to lead a "Moral Mondays" movement at the Arizona Capitol?

And with the referendum for HB 2305, the GOP Voter Suppression Act, already on the 2014 ballot, where are the non-GOP political party leaders, voting rights activists, and minority rights activisists to lead a "Freedom Summer" voter registration drive to register voters AND to help them obtain the necessary state-issued voter ID they will need to vote in November? We cannot rely on the Courts after Shelby County.

Actions speak louder than words of protest. With the right leadership and organizational infrastructure, this is a movement that can bring Arizona into the 21st Century and improve the lives of Arizonans. The time for action is now.

Here is Moral Mondays | Facebook and Moral Mondays (MoralMondays) on Twitter.

Note: The Rev. Dr. William Barber is the recipient of the Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award, awarded in November 2013.

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