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Medicaid expansion activists in Alabama court over graffiti

July 17, 2021 GMT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Community activists on Friday pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges over messages spray-painted messages on a street in front of the Alabama Capitol urging the state to expand Medicaid.

The four activists with the SaveOurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy were arrested last summer after painting “Expand Medicaid: and “Black Lives Matter.” The protest began with a mock funeral to remember people who have died from lack of medical care.

Two women in the group said they were strip searched at the Montgomery jail after being arrested, while the two men were not.

“All I am guilty of is trying to save lives by expanding Medicaid so that more people will not die needlessly or lose their health. I want people to have the health care that they need,” Karen Jones, one of the people arrested, said in a statement.

Faya Rose Toure, a civil rights attorney, said she and Jones were strip searched at the jail. Toure is married to former state Sen. Hank Sanders.

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A spokeswoman for the Montgomery Police Department last year said jail staff followed the proper and legal protocols, which include unclothed searches for both the men and the women during the intake process.

Medicaid is health insurance funded by state and federal governments. Alabama is one of the 12 states that have not expanded the program to allow low-income working people to receive coverage. Alabama’s program currently covers children and people who are elderly or have disabilities, but few able-bodied adults qualify.