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Biden is likely to make yet another demand

When John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and other civil rights activists defied tear gas and police beatings to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, they were marching for a voting rights act and against white Southerners who routinely resorted to violence, including bombings and murder, to ensure only white people would be in control of politics — even in majority-Black towns such as Selma.

When President Joe Biden visits Selma on Sunday, to commemorate what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” we shouldn’t think of him making just a typical nod to history. Because the president will be speaking in Selma as the political kin of those who made “Bloody Sunday” bloody employ legal maneuvers to control majority-Black cities.

They can’t totally stop Black people from voting, so they’ve decided to grant themselves the authority to render meaningless the choices Black voters make at the ballot box. The new strategy is to strip decision-making power away from the majority-Black residents of urban areas and give it to unelected white overlords from out of town.

Mississippi’s mostly white and mostly Republican Legislature is proposing to give Mississippi Capitol Police, which doesn’t answer to Jackson city officials, jurisdiction throughout the entire majority Black, majority Democratic city. In Missouri, the majority white and majority Republican Legislature is trying to use a Civil War-era law to take St. Louis’ police force away from the city and put it under state control. And in Washington, D.C., the Republican-controlled U.S. House has voted to block the Washington City Council’s decision to update its crime code, an update that lowers maximum sentences for crimes that include carjacking and gun possession.

While he’s in Selma, Biden is likely to make yet another demand that the GOP-controlled House reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, but he should also use his time in that sacred space to call out these blatantly anti-democratic actions by white conservatives who are trying to reclaim their former apartheid-like power over Black people. But given his announcement Thursday that he won’t veto a Congressional override of D.C.’s city council’s crime bill, Biden should ask himself how committed he himself is to the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.
Percentage-wise, Jackson is one of the Blackest cities in the country, which makes it all the more galling that last month, Mississippi’s Legislature flirted with creating a separate court system and an expanded police force that would patrol all the city’s majority-white neighborhoods (and some other areas) and that would be appointed exclusively by state officials who are white.  That plan preceded the current legislation which gives the Mississippi Capitol Police free rein throughout Jackson. Officers on that force have shot four people since August, and the force does not have to answer to Jackson residents or its outspoken Black mayor, the self-described radical Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

Lumumba is right to attribute the legislation to “plantation politics.” He recently told the Independent, “If we allow this type of legislation to stand in Jackson, Mississippi, it’s a matter of time before it will hit New Orleans, it’s a matter of time before it hits Detroit, or wherever we find our people.”

Except it’s already happening. Speaking of the Missouri’s Legislature’s gambit to take the police department from under her control, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones told The Intercept that there’s a “common thread of the cities that I am aware of where this is happening. Where there has been a concerted attempt to strip power away from local leadership, the mayors are Black.”

According to the Missouri Independent, the state law that would be used to take away the St. Louis Police Department was conceived by a Civil-War-era governor who wanted Missouri to join the Confederacy and sought control over what was then the state’s largest city.
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Saturday, March 4, 2023
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