Members of SOS rally and press conference on May 14, 2021 in support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act at the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama (photo by K. C. Bailey, Selma, AL)
The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) held a rally and press conference on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery last Friday, May 14, 2021. The focus of the event was to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and other steps to combat racial profiling and brutality by police in Alabama. The rally also expressed opposition to Governor Ivey’s multi-billion plans to build three private prisons, in response to Federal complaints about unsafe conditions in the state’s existing prisons. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a critical step to address the pandemic of police injustice and killing of innocent Black, Brown and poor people in Alabama and across the nation. This act, HR 1280 has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting action by the U. S. Senate. The act includes provisions to prevent and remedy racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. It also limits the unnecessary use of force and restricts the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds. The act would limit the use of ‘qualified immunity’ for the defense of police who hurt unarmed civilians. It also creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct. It also establishes new reporting requirements, including on the use of force, officer misconduct, and routine policing practices (e.g., stops and searches). At the rally, Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of the Ordinary People’s Society in Dothan, Alabama, an organization committed to serving incarcerated people both in prison and after their release, said “The same communities with high rates of poverty, health conditions like diabetes, low educational levels are the same communities that are providing the inmates to fill our prisons. All of these problems are inter-related and need solutions that reduce the numbers of people in Alabama prisons and provides more opportunities for the inmates.” Morgan Dunkett of the student group, Communities Not Prisons, who opposes Gov. Ivey’s plan to borrow funds illegally to build three private prisons, said, “ We oppose the Governor’s plans to build these prisons and we oppose the laws and conditions that feed people into the prison system. Adoption of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will make a difference in reducing the number of people from our communities that are sent to prison.” Yogi Gillbey of Yogiesmedia and mother of an incarcerated son, said, “Too many innocent people have been sent to Alabama prisons. People are being raped and tortured in our prisons. Guards in the prisons should be required to have on cameras at all times to cut down on the violence in our prisons. More people should be released on reasonable bail, rather than spending months in prison because they cannot afford bail.” William Harrison, an SOS member from Montgomery said that reform of the criminal justice system was linked to voting and voter suppression. “We must encourage people to vote to elect people who will support the George Floyd Act and other legislation to reform the system. Too many states are adopting voter suppression measures which will make this situation harder to turn around,” he said. Danielle Chanzez, from Jacksonville, Florida, asked to speak and unfurl a banner about the case of Diamond Ford and her partner Anthony Grant who were arrested by police exercising a “no-knock warrant” at their home one night last year. Diamond and her partner said the police broke in their apartment, without identifying themselves. Diamond and her partner fired back and were arrested at which point they found out that they were not the subjects of the incorrectly drawn warrant. Because they tried to defend themselves – they are now in jail. John Zippert, SOS Steering Committee member said, “The case we just heard about in Jacksonville, Florida is a clear reason why we are here today to ask people to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would curtail no-knock warrants and work to get it passed by the Senate and signed by President Biden.” “SOS is also concerned about abuses of criminal justice and prisons in Alabama which the George Floyd Act would help to resolve which is why highlighted these issues at the May 14 rally,” said Zippert.