By Christopher Young,
You’re black and we’re white, and we will take what we want to take. That is the inescapable reality of the final engrossed House Bill 1020 and Senate Bill 2343. According to Politico interactive maps in 2021, 29% of state legislators in Mississippi are non-white. Black legislators, vastly Democrats, must settle for crumbs of legislation, because their white colleagues easily outnumber them – by a super-majority – and they are gunning for control of Jackson.
Last Thursday the upper chamber passed HB1020 by a vote of 31-15 with 4 Republican abstentions. One hundred percent of Democrats voted against the bill. One hundred percent of Republicans either voted for the bill or abstained. None of the abstentions were from Hinds County.
The following day, the lower chamber passed HB1020 by a vote of 73-41 with 7 abstaining (four Republicans and three Democrats). Three Democrats and one Independent voted for this bill, including African Americans Cedric Burnett and Angela Cockerham and European American Shanda Yates who represents Hinds/Madison. Of the three Democrats who abstained, one was African American (Kenneth Walker whose district includes Madison). None were from Hinds County. The bill now goes to the governor where there is every expectation that he will sign it into law. If it becomes law it will go into effect July 1, 2023 – 86 days from now.
From reviewing the engrossed texts of HB1020, what it does, is the following:
• Creates a separate Judicial District for the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID)
• Codifies separate law enforcement – Capitol Police – for the CCID
• Four special judges will be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and they will serve through 2026
• Department of Public Safety, who oversees Capitol Police will be able to send misdemeanor cases that carry jail time to prison, instead of jail.
• Capitol Police has primary jurisdiction within the CCID and secondary jurisdiction throughout the entire City of Jackson
Per Mississippi Today, when responding to Representative Thomas Lamar’s comments about being unfairly labeled a racist, black lawmaker, Representative Edward Blackmon, Jr. of Canton said, “When you take away the right of people to elect their officials who have traditionally been elected, how else are they going to see it? “The right to vote may not mean much to some of you, but when you look at history that got us to where we are today, when it took so long and lost so many lives…gentleman, you have not been beaten for asking for the right to vote. You have not been locked up for asking for that. I have. Yes, I am sensitive to that.”
When he asked why additional funds could not be transferred to Jackson for additional police officers, Lamar of Senatobia stated, “that Jackson has shown incompetence, and cited water, sewer, and garbage.
And further from the same source, “While the city is more than 80% African American, Blackmon pointed out the demographics of the Capital Complex District will be close to 50-50.”
Last Thursday the upper chamber passed SB2343 by a vote of 29-14 with 6 Republicans and 1 Democrat (Juan Bennett) abstaining. Senator Bennett is African American and his district includes Forrest, Jasper, and Jones counties. None of the abstainers were from Hinds County.
The following day, the lower chamber passed SB2343 by a vote of 74-41 with 6 abstaining (three Republicans and three Democrats). In this case though, one African American Democrat (Cedric Burnett of Coahoma, Tunica and Tate), one African American Independent (Angela Cockerham of Adams and Pike), and two European American Democrats voted for this takeover legislation. One is Rep Shanda Yates who does represent Hinds and Madison counties.
Of the two Democrats who abstained, one is African American (Kenneth Walker – Madison) and one is European American (Tom Miles – Rankin/Scott). None of the abstainers are from Hinds County. The bill now goes to the governor where there is every expectation that he will sign it into law. If it becomes law it will go into effect January 1, 2024.
Senate Bill 2343 is what is referred to as a companion bill to HB1020, and you will easily see why. Here’s what it does:
• Department of Public Safety (DPS), through the Office of Capitol Police will have jurisdiction to enforce state laws on any properties that are in any way connected to the State doing business
• DPS will be able to contract for security at the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning building at Ridgewood & Lakeland Drive…Department of Agriculture, farmers market, fairgrounds complex, Department of Revenue, and Alcoholic Beverage Control buildings
• DPS will have jurisdiction within the boundaries of the CCID and (underlined in the Bill) within the boundaries of the City of Jackson
• Requires written authorization of the Capitol Police Chief or Commissioner prior to approval of any event taking place on any street or sidewalk immediately adjacent to State property
• DPS can contract with any county for county to take custody of misdemeanor offenders arrested
• All forms of accrued leave transfers with an employee that transfers from Department of Finance and Accounting to DPS
Well, there you have it. The deed is done, more or less in the broad light of day. Casting a vote matters – remember Vernon Dahmer, “If you don’t vote – you don’t count.” A total of 24 abstentions connected to these two Bills. And why would two African Americans, both from outside Hinds County/Jackson break solidarity with their African American colleagues? Why would they not support them? The die is cast with these two bills, and it’s no longer a Trojan Horse entering Hinds/Jackson, it’s plainly visible white conservative Christian Republicans from outside, one signature away from firm entrenchment in our city, usurping our autonomy for voting rights, policing, and assembling unencumbered.
No other black City in America suffers this oppression and racism like Jackson. And, for God’s sake, there isn’t even a permit required to assemble or demonstrate outside of The White House.