‘Ride to Restore Section 5’ grassroots lobbyists push Voting Rights Advancement Act in Washington, D. C.

Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

Hodge.jpgwash group.jpgCongresswoman Terri Sewell address youth as part of the training to support ride to revive Section 5.

A group of sixty community activists from Alabama went to Washington, D. C. in six vans from Sunday to Tuesday (June 24-27, 2017) to support the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), HR 2948, introduced last week by our Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell.
The bill was introduced on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby vs, Holder decision, which gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and advance Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to include 14 states and other political subdivisions. These areas would again be placed under the protection of Section 5 and be required to have any election changes pre-cleared by the Department of Justice before they could be implanted.
The VRAA updates the criteria and establishes a nationwide coverage formula for states and political subdivisions that would be subject again to the pre-clearance provisions of Section 5. Any state that has had 15 or more voting violations in the last 25-year period; or 10 or more voting violations, at least one of the violations committed by the state itself, would be covered. A political subdivision within a state can be covered if it commits 3 or more voting violations.
The bill also carefully defines what constitutes a voting rights violation and which election changes must be submitted for pre-clearance.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell said, “The VRAA is an advancement bill, it advances voting rights throughout the country. Under this bill, all eleven states that were part of the Confederacy, including Alabama, as well as other political subdivisions around the nation and on tribal lands would be covered and subject to the pre-clearance provisions.”
The VRAA would classify voting changes such as strict voter photo identification requirements, and voter registration requirements to be reviewed and possibly overturned if they were deemed to be more stringent than the requirements in Section 303b of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.The VRAA, HR 2948, has 182 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. They are all Democrats. And the companion legislation S.1490 in the Senate has 46 co-sponsors, also all Democrats, so far.
The grassroots voting activists visited more than 75 Congressional offices, including the membership of the House Judiciary Committee, Alabama’s delegation of six Republican members besides Sewell and our two Senators – Richard Shelby and Luther Strange. The grassroots activists left a package of information including factsheets on the legislation, a Senate Sketches by State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma, which deals with the “power of one vote”, and materials about the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, the first weekend in March each year.
On Tuesday morning, the Alabama group joined by other activists in Washington from the Rural Coalition, Food and Water Watch, National Family Farm Coalition and other groups had a rally and press conference on the Capitol grounds facing the Cannon House Office Building on Independence Avenue and First Street NE.
The rally had many chants supporting the revival of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act along with civil rights freedom songs. Several Congresspersons, including Terri Sewell, G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Marc Veasey of Dallas, Texas and Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts addressed the rally. Congressman John Lewis drove by the rally on Independence Avenue and saluted the crowd.
On Monday night, the group had a meeting at Howard University Law School, which was addressed by several civil rights veterans, including former D. C. Congressman Walter E.
Fauntroy, Viola Bradford, who wrote for the Southern Courier newspaper in Montgomery, Antonio Harrison, a former Alabama State Senator, who lives and works in D. C. Professor Ardua of the Law School spoke on the need for reparations to address the continuing impact of slavery on Black people.
The Ride to Revive Section 5 was sponsored by the SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy, Alabama New South Coalition and other local groups in Alabama. For more information or to make donations to help the cause – contact Shelley Fearson at 334-262-0932 or email: Alabamanewsouth Coordinator@ aol.com

Rep. Terri Sewell statement on bomb threats to Jewish Community Center in Birmingham

terri-sewell

 Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) released the following statement on recent anti-Semitic attacks and bomb threats to Jewish facilities national, as well as in Birmingham, AL:

“I am deeply disturbed by the threats against Jewish community centers in Birmingham and nationwide,” said Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL). “These hate crimes will not be tolerated. Many of my constituents still remember the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four young black girls. We cannot and will not let that kind of hate rock our community ever again. The families in my district reject anti-Semitism or discrimination against any religion or race, and we will call out and confront discrimination wherever it is present.”

On Feb. 23, Congresswoman Terri Sewell joined 157 members of Congress in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), urging the agencies to swiftly assess the recent threats against Jewish community centers and to advise Congress on any steps which it can take to help counter those threats.

On Monday, the Birmingham police investigated a bomb threat at the Levite Jewish Community Center, the third bomb threat to the Community Center over the past month. According to the FBI’s Birmingham division, the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division will investigate as part of a nationwide probe into threats against Jewish community centers.

In the first two months of 2017 alone, there have been more than 60 incidents targeting Jewish community centers nationwide. The bomb threat reported on Monday was the third to be reported against Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center this year.  The first bomb threat happened Jan. 18 and then again on Feb. 20.

 

Democrats end House sit-in protest over gun control

 

By Deirdre WalshManu RajuEric Bradner and Steven Sloan, CNN

John Lewis with Terri Sewell

Congressman John Lewis and colleagues including Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-7) as part of sit-in on House floor;

 John Lewis crossing bridge 1965

 John Lewis crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma 1965   Washington (CNN)

Democrats decided to end their day-long sit-in protest on the House floor over gun control Thursday, June 23, 2016.

Rep. John Lewis, who launched the sit-in Wednesday morning that eventually drew 170 lawmakers, lit up social media, and infuriated House Republicans — but spurred no legislative action — said the fight was not over.

“We must come back here on July 5th [when Congress returns to session] more determined than ever before,” Lewis said.

“We are going to win,” he told supporters on the Capitol steps after the sit-in was halted. “The fight is not over. This is just one step of when we come back here on July the 5th we’re going to continue to push, to pull, to stand up, and if necessary, to sit down. So don’t give up, don’t give in. Keep the faith, and keep your eyes on the prize.”  He also tweeted, “We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up.”

Lawmakers said that during the July 4th break, they would take the issue to their districts.”We are going back to our congressional districts — we are going to engage our constituents on this subject, and we will not allow this body feel as comfortable as in the past,” Rep. Jim Clyburn said. “On July 5, we will return, and at that time we will be operating on a new sense of a purpose.”

Republicans had earlier tried to shut down the sit-in, but the Democrats’ protest over the lack of action on gun control lasted for more than 24 hours. House Democrats were looking for votes to expand background checks and ban gun sales to those on the no-fly watch list.

In the middle of the night, the House GOP had sought to end the extraordinary day of drama by swiftly adjourning for a recess that will last through July 5.

The Republican move was an effort to terminate a protest that began Wednesday morning in reaction to the massacre in Orlando when Democrats took over the House floor and tried to force votes on gun control. But throughout the morning Thursday, 10-20 Democrats, including House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi for much of the time, remained on the floor.

At one point, a police officer told the Democrats that they would be conducting a daily security sweep. “I’d ask that you clear the floor while that happens,” the officer said.

Pelosi responded: “That’s not going to happen” and the security check then took place involving five agents and a dog as the House Democratic leader continued speaking, undeterred. Pelosi said the sit-in would continue “until hell freezes over.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday accused the Democrats of throwing the House into “chaos” and threatening democracy. He said Republicans were looking at all options to stop the sit-in, if the Democrats continued it.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, also criticized the protest and said it was a setback to her efforts to build bipartisan support for her legislation that would ban gun sales to people on a list of possible terrorists.

“It is not helpful to have had the sit-in on the House side because that made it partisan, and I’ve worked very hard to keep this bipartisan, so that setback our efforts somewhat,” she said of her bill, which won support from a majority of senators Thursday but fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

Although Republicans leaders had shut off House cameras, Democrats continued Thursday morning to livestream their activities on the floor. Rep. Mark Takano plugged his phone into an external power source, set it on top of a chair facing the podium, and was streaming on his Facebook page even though he’d left the chamber to appear on CNN’s “New Day.”

The sit-in became a social media happening. Tweets sent by Reps. Scott Peters and Eric Swalwell with Periscopes were viewed over 1 million times and the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor were tweeted over 1.4 million times, according to Twitter.

Shortly after 8:00 a.m. Florida Rep. Ted Deutch gave an impassioned speech on the floor.”I am tired, I am cold, and I am hungry. Let me remind everyone watching how privileged I am to be tired, cold, and hungry,” he said. “These are feelings that I am privileged to have because so many will never feel that again,” referring to victims of gun violence.

Overall, more than 170 Democrats took part in the sit in over the 24 hours, lawmakers said.

 

 

Congresswoman Terri Sewell introduces H.R. 4817 to designate Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights District a National Park

Shown above: Memorial to Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church which would be part of proposed Historic Civil Rights District

 

The City of Birmingham played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement and this national designation will forever cement its place in American history.
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL-7) released the following statement to announce the filing of H.R. 4817, a bill to designate Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights District as a National Park.
“I am proud to introduce this important, bi-partisan legislation that incorporates Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights sites into the National Park Service System,” states Representative Sewell. “With this designation, historic preservation efforts will be enhanced for these historic sites, greater economic revitalization will occur, and it will forever cement the pivotal role Birmingham played in the Civil Rights Movement.””The Historic Civil Rights District in Birmingham holds many stories of the journey from what was regarded as one of the most segregated cities in the South to what Birmingham is today. The National Park designation will be a real tourism boost for Birmingham and will mean greater economic development for Alabama. The Birmingham Civil Rights District will include a 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, A.G. Gaston Motel and other historic landmarks.”Several noteworthy stakeholders expressed their support for the Bill:
“Sharing the Birmingham Civil Rights Story and legacy is paramount to the success of the City. We are thankful to Congresswoman Sewell for moving this legislation forward. This is an exciting time for our City,” says Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama.
“As a gathering place for activists and leaders in the Civil Rights movement, the sites within the Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park tell of the African-American fight for equality. The National Trust applauds Congresswoman Terri Sewell for her leadership in introducing this significant legislation, and proudly stands with Mayor William A. Bell and the City of Birmingham in supporting this effort to preserve not only the places but the history that happened in the thriving historic district.
We urge the House of Representatives to quickly approve this legislation to ensure these places live on to benefit future generations of Americans and beyond,” states Tom Cassidy, Vice President of Government Relations & Policy, National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Birmingham was one of the most heavily segregated cities in the United States in the 1960s. The non-violent protest marches in Birmingham in the spring of 1963 and the violent response they evoked from police and state and local officials drew national attention and helped to break the back of segregation in that city,” states Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “We commend Representative Sewell for working to ensure these pivotal moments in the long struggle to bring equality and justice to all Americans will never be forgotten. The addition of a Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park would allow this important Civil Rights story to be told for generations to come.”

About the Proposed National Park Designation

The proposed Birmingham national park site would include 16th Street Baptist Church, A.G. Gaston Motel, Kelly Ingram Park, Bethel Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
The “National Historic Park” designation by the National Park Service (NPS) is defined as particularly notable because of its connection with events or people of historic interest. Such entities often extend beyond a single property or building. Many entities are not traditional “parks” in the sense of extensive green spaces, but are rather urban areas with a number of historically relevant buildings.