About 75 people gathered at the City Services Center in Columbus Monday as part of a “Jailed for Justice” tour that has been visiting various cities throughout the state.
The tour is a part of the Moral Monday movement, which resulted in about 81 arrests in the Georgia State Capitol during the 2014 legislative session, fighting for medicaid expansion, better gun laws and other social justice issues.
Repeating after Tonza Thomas, secretary of the Georgia Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the group clapped and shouted “fired up, ready to go, somewhere, right here, right now.”
The group later sang, “Can’t Nobody Turn Me ’Round,” and vowed to continue the statewide campaign for change, while photos of people being arrested for civil disobedience were shown in the background.
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In her comments, Thomas laid out an agenda for the local NAACP’s youth committee. She called on Gov. Nathan Deal, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Columbus city councilors “to restore order to our streets” by banning the box regarding conviction history on all employment applications.
“Statistics show that most repeat offenders re-offend or upgrade to criminal activity because of lack of resources,” she said. “Banning the box on all employment applications will ensure the hope for many disenfranchised people who need a second chance, who’ve been wrongly convicted and want to raise their families.”
She also called for Superintendent David Lewis, school board members and educators to find a solution to end the school-to-prison pipeline.
The Rev. Reggie Williams, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, welcomed the group, which included several demonstrators who had been arrested, to Columbus.
“I am so thankful and happy that these different organizations are finally together and we’re putting differences aside,” he said. “We may not agree politically on things, but we can agree on moral outrages that are happening in our community and our state. So let’s keep the work up.”
Jeremy Hobbs, president of the Better Way Foundation of Columbus, told the group that he was blown away by what the demonstrators were doing for people living with AIDS, cancer and the uninsured.
“We serve over 2,300 people living locally with AIDS right here in Columbus, and I’m one of those,” he said. “You know, folks, this is just another sign of another bad deal from Gov. Deal.”
Other speakers at the event included the Rev. Francys Johnson, president of the State Conference of the NAACP; Nate Sanderson, president of the Columbus branch of the NAACP; Tim Franzen, a project director with the American Friends Services Committee; Ed Dubose, a national NAACP board member; Theresa El-Amin, of the Southern Anti-Racism Network; The Rev. Ken Cyrus, of the Teacher Retirement System; and Daniel Thomas, cofounder of the newly formed Libertarian Party in Columbus.