Despite Tuesday’s chilling temperature, hundreds gathered on the south side of the State Capitol to amplify their outrage of House Bill 1020. The bill, introduced by Rep. Trey Lamar of Senatobia, proposes to expand the size of the so-called Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID), place that district under the exclusive police jurisdiction of the Capitol Police force, and create a special judiciary – judges, clerks and prosecuting attorneys – for that district. It would also divert 18% of the tax revenue normally returned to Jackson to fund the district.
The rally/press conference had an impressive number of Hinds County’s Black leadership taking to the mic from Jackson’s mayor and several councilpersons, to supervisors, judges, tax collector, attorney, election commissioners, clerks, and legislators who were joined by several of their colleagues from the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus.
There were also quite a number of representatives from civil rights, civil liberties, and activist groups, such as Jackson Peoples’ Assembly, One Voice, Mississippi Center for Justice, American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, Poor Peoples’ Campaign, Rapid Response Coalition, Mississippi Alliance of State Employees, and McArthur Justice Center.
Even members of the clergy came out in full force, including prominent pastors Dwayne Pickett, Bishop Ronnie Crudup, Rev. Wesley Robinson, and Rev. Hosea Hines who spoke during the event, lending the support of their churches.
In the course of the rally, which lasted two hours, speakers laid out for the crowd lessons in political history, constitutional law, and sociology.
At his weekly news conference, the day before the rally, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba had, to some extent, set the tone for the event by referring to the attempted take-over of Jackson as an example of colonialism or as a plantation model. Several speakers used some of the same rhetoric during the rally.
More than one speaker pointed out that House Bill 1020 would take from the residents of Jackson and other voters of Hinds County the right to be served by elected judges, clerks, and prosecutors of their choosing.
They were informed that these positions would be filled by three white individuals who either did not live in Jackson, or had no real allegiance to the city or Hinds County.
Speaker after speaker pointed out how rather than Jackson police, the citizens would be under the jurisdiction, or at the mercy of, more militarized and racist police who in many cases are from Madison and Rankin counties, known for their racial prejudice.
They talked about how the scheme was an example of unconstitutional disenfranchisement as well as taxation without representation on the part of Black Jacksonians. Jackson would become like a colony and its residents like subjects of a colony or workers on a plantation.
Several stakeholders talked about the parallel between what had happened in Mississippi after the Civil War, when ex-Confederate white politicians rolled-back the gains of Reconstruction, eliminating Black officials and their supporters from office and assuming power for themselves.
They pointed to specific individuals and particular laws used then that are being resuscitated or imitated through House Bill 1020 and the companion efforts to take control of Jackson’s airport, Jackson’s water and sewage system, and to facilitate the recalling of Jackson’s Black mayor.
Several other speakers reflected on the historical racism in the process of trying to get the bill passed. One speaker compared the similarity with how the state legislature reacted following the desegregation of the public schools and the passage of the civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965.
Another spokesperson did it by showing the stealth with which the first CCID was created, but had grown more bold or obvious with each new phase. Now, the House Bill 1020 proposal is a full-blown power-grab by white supremacists.
The bill would give the power to Attorney General Lynn Fitch, Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell, and the state Supreme Court to appoint the persons responsible for law enforcement and the dispensing of justice within the district. That authority is presently in the hands of Jackson and Hinds County voters.
The appointed officials in the district would be subject to no one, while the county-elected judges and prosecutors outside the district would have no authority in that part of the county.
The bill would also expand the CCID to include the totality of northeast Jackson, approximately 25% of the city, almost all of the white people who remain in the city. It would enable those white residents to have increased police protection, with additional tax revenue. Doing this would also enable those white neighborhoods to set-up their own water and sewage system as is proposed in other measures before the legislature.
While most of the speakers urged citizens to place phone calls to relevant members of the legislature – the Speaker, the House Ways and Means Committee Members, and as many other House members as possible, several lawyers at the event declared that because the proposed bill would be unconstitutional, opponents should be prepared to challenge the law in court. They pointed out that if the bill happens to survive in the House, it must be challenged again in the Senate.
The rally was spirited throughout. In order to send the message more loudly and clearly, each time that a speaker made his/her pitch, he/she would turn to their constituents and ask, “Are the pastors opposed to House Bill 1020?” To which they yelled, “Yes!” “Are the Hinds County Supervisors against House Bill 1020?” “Are the Black legislators opposed to House Bill 1020?” On down the line the call – response went, hammering home the point that Jacksonians and Hinds County residents do not want House Bill 1020, as had been falsely claimed by some Republican legislators.