Friday, March 27, 2015

Two Christian Women Refuse Bail Until RFRA is Defeated!

Emma Stitt far left, Jess Reznicek far right
It's been five days since a group of women entered Senator Josh McKoon's office to share their concerns with sb129(Religious Freedom Restoration Act). The women were very quickly told that they would be arrested if they didn't leave the office despite the fact that it was during business hours. The women stated, "We will wait until the Senator is able to meet with us." They were quickly arrested.

Emma and Jess wait to board prisoner transport 
Jess Reznicek and Emma Stitt felt so strongly about the potential harm of RFRA, they have refused to post bond and will remain in jail until the RFRA bill is defeated, or for the duration of their sentence, which has yet to be determined by the courts. Their refusal to use their privilege to get out of jail is further demonstration of their desire to remain in solidarity with the women of Georgia who are not able to post bond, as well as all of the women of Georgia who will be adversely impacted by RFRA. As Emma and Jess are led by their faith to wait in a jail cell the debate around RFRA continues. Over the course of the last week Senator McKoon has refused to allow an amendment to the bill which would stop it from being used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and women stating, "That amendment would completely undercut the purpose of the bill."

Emma Stitt, 29, has been with the Open Door Community in Atlanta for four years, where she leads weekly soup kitchens and showers for the homeless, ministers to prisoners throughout Georgia, and participates in non-violent street actions to demand justice for the poor, imprisoned and marginalized.  

Jess Reznicek, 34, is a member of the Des Moines Catholic Worker community in Iowa, which is committed to a simple, nonviolent lifestyle as they work among the poor. Although Jess lives in Iowa, her passion for women’s reproductive rights transcends state lines and has led her to act in solidarity with Georgia women through this action against RFRA. 

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. McKoon 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.