We Are Georgia Today at the State Capitol

On February 13, Occupy Atlanta, Jobs with Justice, and Georgia Communication Workers of America staged a sit-in leading into an occupation of AT&T’s Southeastern headquarters, in protest of an announced lay-off of 740 jobs throughout the Southeast. One week later SB 469 was in the Georgia legislature. Provisions of this bill would place heavy fines on individuals and organizations who picket “at or near” the location of a labor dispute, would de-fund unions, and would create the crime of “conspiracy to commit criminal trespass” for which the penalty would be up to $5000 and a year in jail. As State Sen. Vincent Fort pointed out, this would be the only part of the Georgia code where planning to commit a crime would be punished more harshly than the crime itself. It is clearly aimed at those who plan and carry out peaceful civil disobedience. Martin Luther King III said that “if this law had been intact during the era of Martin Luther King, Jr. they would not have been able to achieve the many things that they accomplished.” The Fulton County Sheriff Theodore “Ted” Jackson opposes the bill, saying, “The role of law enforcement should not be to police free speech. But the intent of the bill seems to be just that.”

If the law is this bad, why is it being proposed? Four sponsors of the bill are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, and AT&T sits on the board of that organization. What is happening in Georgia is happening all over the country. There is a concerted attack on women’s rights, worker’s rights, immigrant’s rights, and freedom of speech which is the basic right that protects the others. As Martin Luther King III said, “All around America, something is wrong with our priorities…Our work is nowhere near done.”

Today, March 17, over forty organizations will rally at the Georgia State Capitol in order to defend our rights. Occupations from across the country will be taking action in support, not only of Occupy Atlanta and the other Georgia occupations, but of our basic rights as human beings and as Americans. As Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery said just a few days ago to a group of people assembled to plan today’s rally, “I have never seen this country in more need of saving.”

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