Newswire : Alabama Senator Doug Jones introduces legislation to mandate release of Civil Rights Cold Case Records

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Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) introduced legislation on July 10 mandating the review, declassification, and release of government records related to unsolved criminal civil rights cases. Legislation is necessary because the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as implemented, has prevented the timely and adequate disclosure of executive branch records, and congressional records are not subject to public disclosure under FOIA.

In addition, some of these records, although almost 50 years old, remain classified unnecessarily or shielded from public view. The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018 remedies this problem by requiring the National Archives and Records Administration to create a collection of government documents related to civil rights cold cases and to make those documents available to the public. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is an original co-sponsor of the legislation.

“Having prosecuted two civil rights cold cases in Alabama, I know firsthand the importance of having every available piece of information at your disposal,” said Senator Jones, a former U.S. Attorney. “This bill will ensure public access to records relating to these cases and will expand the universe of people who can help investigate these crimes, including journalists, historians, private investigators, local law enforcement, and others. We might not solve every one of these cold cases, but my hope is that this legislation will help us find some long-overdue healing and understanding of the truth in the more than 100 unsolved civil rights criminal cases that exist today.”

Jones, who successfully prosecuted two of the former KKK members responsible for the bombing of the 16thStreet Baptist Church, has long been an advocate for greater access to civil rights cold case records. In 2007, he testified to the House Judiciary Committee in support of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act that established a special initiative in the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate civil rights cold cases. He spoke about the difficulty of prosecuting these cases so many years after the crimes were committed and pointed to the importance of sharing information in order to find the truth.

“We’ve made progress ensuring these heinous acts of violence and hatred are able to be brought to justice—but we have more work to do,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, former Jackson County Prosecutor. “Helping families and advocates get access to these documents could help their push towards justice for these long unsolved cold cases.”

“It is hard to overstate the positive impact that Sen. Doug Jones’s proposed Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act would have on thousands of families who, 40 to 60 years later, have no idea how a father, grandfather, aunt or brother came to a violent death in the modern civil rights era,” said Hank Klibanoff, Director, Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory University. “As a journalist and historian who relies on government-held records in these civil rights cold cases, it’s important to know that our purposes are simple: To learn the truth, to seek justice where there may be a living perpetrator, to tell the untold stories, and to bring closure to families of victims, and find opportunities for racial reconciliation.”

The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018 will:

· Require the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of cold case records about unsolved criminal civil rights cases that government offices must publicly disclose in the collection without redaction or withholding.

· Establish a Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board as an independent agency of impartial private citizens to facilitate the review, transmission to NARA, and public disclosure of government records related to such cases.

Senator Jones’ bill was modeled after the President John F. Kennedy, Jr. Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which created an orderly and effective process for reviewing, declassifying, and releasing thousands of documents related to the assassination of President Kennedy. Read a detailed overview of the legislation here.

The legislation Senator Jones introduced was originally envisioned by students from Hightstown High School in Hightstown, New Jersey, and their teacher, Stuart Wexler.

Bridge Crossing Jubilee to be this weekend in Selma, Alabama

The 53rd commemoration of the “Bloody Sunday Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights” will take place in Selma from Thursday, March 1 to Sunday, March 4, 2018. This will also be the 25th anniversary of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, featuring over 40 events to celebrate voting rights and plan for future actions to maintain and expand voting rights.
The theme of this year’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee is Many More Bridges to Cross. Most of the events being held over the four-day period are free to the public.
The initial event is the Old Fashioned Mass Meeting at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Broad Street from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Thursday, March 1, 2018. Bishop Staccato Powell of AME Zion Church is the main speaker. Tabernacle is the site of the first mass meetings of the Selma Voting Rights Struggle more than half a century ago. The Miss Jubilee Pageant for youth is also that same evening from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the School of Discovery.
On Friday, March 2, 2018, there is an Educational Summit to deal with major issues facing the education of young people, a Mock Trial on an important issue and a special rally for the “Poor People’s Campaign – A National Moral Revival” featuring Rev. William Barber. The Jubilee Golf Tournament begins early Friday morning and the day ends with a “Stomp Out the Vote” Step Show.

On Saturday, March 3, 2018, there will be a parade, the Foot Soldiers Breakfast, to honor pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, an Intergenerational Summit, with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Jubilee Street Festival, to be held on Water Street close to the bridge, and the Freedom Flame Awards Banquet.
On Saturday there will also be two major workshops on “Human Rights Violation is a Devastation to Our Nation” and “What Democracy Looks Like and Making Democracy Work for US”. Many speakers including Cornel West, Ruby Sales, Raymond Winbush, Anthony Browder and others will participate. These workshops will be held at the Dallas County Courthouse.
Sunday, March 4, 2018, will begin at 7:30AM with the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast at Wallace Community College. Kamala Harris, U. S. Senator from California will be the keynote speaker for the breakfast. She will be joined by new Alabama U. S. Senator Doug Jones, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Rev. Jesse Jackson and many others. After breakfast, marchers are encouraged to join church services around Selma.
At 1:30 PM Sunday, there will be a pre-march rally at the Browns Chapel Church, followed by a re-enactment of the historic Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March starting at 2:30 PM. Thousands are expected to attend and follow the original march route across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. A post-march rally and other activities will be held later that afternoon.
Faya Rose Toure, organizer of the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee said, “We invite everyone who supports and celebrates the right to vote to come to this largest annual continuing Civil Rights Celebration, but we also must rededicate ourselves to working on the next necessary steps to carry the movement for voting rights, civil rights and human rights forward!”
Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders said: “Tens of thousands come to Selma every year to be a part of these events. There is something for everyone of all ages and all backgrounds. See you in Selma!”
For more information and a detailed schedule of all events, check the website: www.BridgeCrossingJubilee.com.