SOS is joining the citizens of Greene County who are holding an 11 a.m. rally Saturday, April 26, “in the schoolhouse door” to protest the closing of electronic bingo facilities that they voted to have in their community.
The event will take place at Foster Auditorium, on the spot where 50 years ago then-Gov. George Wallace stood to prevent the entrance of African American students into the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The citizens of Greene County want their voting rights protected and the U.S. Justice Department has answered their call for an investigation into the legality of the shutdown in the face of a 2003 amendment to the Alabama Constitutional that duly approved electronic bingo in their county. They say State Attorney General Luther Strange — with the approval of Gov. Robert Bentley and the Alabama Supreme Court — ignored the constitution and local laws when his agents raided the county’s four electronic bingo halls on March 31, 2014. The citizens want their day in court with a jury trial of their peers in Greene County, but their attempts to do so have been stalled.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham of the 7th Congressional District, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling for an investigation of potential voting rights infringement in Greene County. The U.S. Justice Department Community Relations Service assigning Mildred Duprey de Robles, a Conciliation Specialist, to meet with a small representative group in Eutaw, Tuesday, April 15, 2014.
Citizens present expressed strong statements of voting rights infringements, citing the civil rights struggles of 50 years ago, which resulted in Greene County, with an 80% Black population, finally exercising their right to vote and winning local political elections. “This is no longer about bingo; it is about the rights we fought so hard to win,” stated Louis Harper, Mayor of Boligee.
Additionally, closing the electronic bingo facilities put 1,000 people out of work. “In a county with less than 10,000 people, the impact on our community is devastating,” says Carol Zippert, a leader of SOS and member of the Alabama New South Coalition.
Gov. Bentley was a member of the (Alabama) House of Representatives in 2003 who voted to approve the amendment that allowed electronic bingo in Greene County, she says. “Now he’s joining the others and saying it’s illegal, but it’s all political. Greene County is known for voting rights. This is not something folks here are just going to sit by and take.”
Saving OurSelves is organizing a bus and caravan to travel on Saturday, April 26, to Tuscaloosa to join the Greene County Committee for Civil Rights in a rally on the steps of Foster Auditorium on the University of Alabama campus as they protest the illegal closing of their gaming facilities, in violation of their voting rights.
Macon County residents have been fighting the closing of its electronic bingo gaming facility and the violation of their voting rights, including now with a Federal lawsuit. Macon County welcomes the opportunity to join with the citizens of Greene County in a united protest. They hope to be heard nationwide in their call for the respect of, and the adherence to, their voting rights, civil rights, and economic rights for justice and the restoration of jobs that their residents lost.
We are asking the organizations of SOS to join with us in this united effort to make our voices heard, and come with us on this bus trip and caravan to Tuscaloosa. There will be no charge for participation in this trip.
The schedule for Saturday is as follows:
- 7:00 Press Conference at the State House in Montgomery
- 7:30 Bus and Caravan depart from the State House to Tuscaloosa
- 11:00 Rally on the steps of Fosters Auditorium on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa
- After Rally: Bus and caravan return to Montgomery
For more information call: 334-720-0515 or 334-558-3907
(Read more about the voting rights controversy with the Greene County Democrat at “Greene County Citizens Take A Stand on Protecting Voting Rights,” and “U.S. Attorney General’s Office Sends Staff to Gather Information on Voting Rights Infringement in Greene County,”)