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Chip Brownlee

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The U.S.’s first memorial dedicated to those terrorized by lynchings, the legacy of enslaved black people and African-Americans who faced the terror of the Jim Crow era is set to open in Montgomery next week.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which will also be dedicated to people of color who face contemporary police brutality and other racism in the justice system, will open to the public on April 26 near downtown Montgomery, in a city that was once the historic capital of the Confederacy.

The memorial’s organizers say the project will reflect on the history of American slavery and racism in a city that played the central role not only in the Confederacy but also in the Jim Crow Era and Civil Rights Movement.

The Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to fighting racial injustice, mass incarceration of black people and the death penalty, began work on the project in 2010 as staff investigated thousands of racial terror lynchings in the South.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice will be the first museum in the U.S. dedicated to the people terrorized by racial lynchings. (via Equal Justice Initiative)

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Many of those lynchings were never documented, the group said, and the organization not only tracked the lynchings themselves but also the terror that ensued. In total, more than six million black people fled the South to the escape the racial terror lynchings.

The new memorial, which will open on Mildred Street between Holcombe Street and Caroline Street, sits on a six-acre site where the memorial will use sculptures, art and design to bring racial terror into context and remember the thousands of victims in the United States.

“Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape,” EJI founder Bryan Stevenson said in an interview with Business Insider. “This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”

Eight hundred corten steel monuments will represent the 800 counties where a racial terror lynching happened, and the names of those who were known to be lynched will be engraved on the columns.

At least 4,400 people were killed by lynchings led by white mobs, peaking between 1880 and 1940, predominantly in the American South.

A 2015 report from EJI, entitled “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror,” the group documented 4,084 lynchings in 12 Southern states between 1877 and 1950, though 300 more racial terror lynchings occurred in other states during the same time period.

“A history of racial injustice must be acknowledged, and mass atrocities and abuse must be recognized and remembered, before a society can recover from mass violence,” the group wrote. “Public commemoration plays a significant role in prompting community-wide reconciliation.”

Eight hundred corten steel monuments will represent the 800 counties where a racial terror lynching happened. (Via EJI)

A six-acre park will surround the memorial. The park will be home to 800 more identical columns, which can be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. EJI says the identical columns will serve as a report on which counties confront the truth of the history lynching as they are voluntarily claimed.

The opening of the memorial has already garnered national attention and a visit from Oprah and other prominent national figures. EJI expects thousands to attend visit Montgomery to celebrate the opening of the new museum.

From April 26–29, EJI will host hold education panels and presentations from national figures, performances, concerts from acclaimed artists and a large opening ceremony.

Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, is expected to attend the opening ceremony on Thursday. Dave Matthews, Usher, Common and Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes are scheduled to perform at a Concert for Peace and Justice on Friday night at the Riverwalk Amphitheater.

Tickets are available on the memorial’s website.

 

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Kavanaugh decision dominates Doug Jones town hall

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) held his second town hall as a U.S. Senator at Birmingham’s historic Parker High School.

Jones was elected largely due to the enormous turnout among Black voters.

“It was because of the incredible work that you did that I am here as the first Democratic Senator to represent Alabama in 25 years,” Jones told the crowd.

“I want to be able to listen,” Jones said. “Some of you have questions and some of you have comments.”

Many of the comments and questions were about how Jones would vote on the confirmation of Donald J. Trump’s (R) U.S. Supreme Court appointee, Brett Kavanaugh.

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Kavanaugh would fill the seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy who retired this summer. Kennedy was often the swing vote between the four strict constructionist Justices and the four liberal Justices.

“I am doing a lot of work on the Supreme Court nominee,” Jones said. “He will be there for life twenty, thirty years, maybe more, we do not know.”

Jones said that it is the job of the Senate to advise and consent on judicial appointments and that he takes that responsibility very seriously.

Jones said that the Judiciary should be independent of politics. “He (the President) is not supposed to have a team on the judiciary.”

Jones asked what was the vote when Justice Antonin Scalia was confirmed. 98 to 0.

On Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, Jones said that the Senate is looking at all of his opinions, including his dissents as well as his work for the Bush presidency and his work with the Whitewater Investigation. The archives have said that even some of what Chairman Grassley (R-Iowa) has requested won’t be ready until October.

“Candidly I am disappointed that we are moving so quickly on a hearing,” Sen. Jones said. “Unfortunately the Democrats do not control the calendar.”

“I am going to do an independent review,” Jones said. “I thought I could get through 2018 without seeing another Doug Jones commercial.”
Jones said that the people who paid for the TV commercials to influence his vote have wasted their money.

A vocal Kavanaugh opponent holding a large heart shaped pillow interrupted the Senator.

“We love you, but you have enough information. Vote NO,” she screamed. After the woman would not calm down or stop repeating herself she was removed from the venue.

“I am going to look at all of the information so I will be able to justify my opinion,” Sen. Jones said. Jones acknowledged that a lot of people were going to be upset no matter how he decided.

One citizen asked Jones how he could consider confirming Kavanaugh after decisions he made against the Affordable Care Act.

“I will answer that question after I meet with him,” Sen. Jones said. “Everything about his record is fair game.”

“I have read a number of his opinions, not all of them yet,” Jones said. “I am not prepared to say what I am going to do on Kavanaugh or give any indication of what I am going to do. I have reached out to meet with him as soon as those hearings are done.”

One man said that the majority of Alabamians support the confirmation of Kavanaugh. How could you vote different that the majority of Alabamians?

“I am going to exercise an independent view,” Jones said. “Most of those constituent views are based on 30 second TV ads.” “My vote is going to be based on what I believe. I am going to be an independent voice for Alabama and that is what I intend to do come Hell or highwater.”

Doug Jones was elected in a special election on December 12. Jones is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. He has practiced law in Birmingham for 15 years after leaving the Justice Department.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding hearings on Kavanaugh’s confirmation in September.

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Elections

Sewell, Gowdy, others introduce bill to strengthen election infrastructure against cyberattacks

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, four members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) introduced the Secure Elections Act, which would provide local communities and state governments with the resources needed to strengthen election systems against cyberattacks.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Tom Rooney (R-Florida), Terri Sewell (D-Selma), Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), and Jim Himes (D-Connecticut). All four of them have played a role in the HPSCI investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“Our democracy is our nation’s greatest asset and it is our job to protect its integrity,” said Rep. Sewell. “We know from our Intelligence Community that Russian entities launched cyberattacks against our election infrastructure in 2016, exploiting at least 21 state election systems. As the 2018 elections approach, action is urgently needed to protect our democracy against another attack. Today’s bipartisan bill takes a huge step forward by providing election officials with the resources and information they need to keep our democracy safe.”

“Although the Russian government didn’t change the outcome of the 2016 election, they certainly interfered with the intention of sowing discord and undermining Americans’ faith in our democratic process,” Rep. Rooney said. “There’s no doubt in my mind they will continue to meddle in our elections this year and in the future.”

The sponsors say that the Secure Elections Act would allow states and local jurisdictions to voluntarily apply for grants to replace outdated voting machines and modernize their elections systems. The bill also streamlines the process the federal government uses to share relevant cybersecurity threat information with state and local governments.

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The Senate version of the Secure Elections Act was introduced in March by Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota).

Sen. Lankford addressed the U.S. Senate on the Secure Elections Act.

“We have to be able to have better communication between the federal government and states, a better cybersecurity system, and the ability to be able to audit that,” Lankford said. “That is why Senator Klobuchar and I have worked for months on a piece of legislation called the Secure Elections Act. That piece of legislation has worked its way through every state looking at it and their election authorities. We’ve worked it through multiple committee hearings. In fact, recently just in the last month, two different hearings with the Rules Committee. It is now ready to be marked up and finalized to try to bring to this body.”

“I have zero doubt the Russians tried to destabilize our nation in 2016 by attacking the core of our democracy,” Lankford said. “Anyone who believes they will not do it again has missed the basic information that is how day, after day, after day, in our intelligence briefings. The Russians have done it the first time. They showed the rest of the world the lesson in what could be done. It could be the North Koreans next time. It could be the Iranians next time. It could be a domestic activist group next time. We should learn that lesson, close that vulnerability, and make sure that we protect our systems in the days ahead.”

Rep. Sewell is also the lead sponsor of the SHIELD Act and the E-Fellows Security Act, two bills which would strengthen cybersecurity on federal, state, and local campaigns.

Rep. Terri A. Sewell is serving her fourth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional district. She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Sewell is a Chief Deputy Whip and serves on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee of the Democratic Caucus. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, and Vice Chair of Outreach for the New Democrat Coalition.

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Brooks supports President Trump’s Space Force efforts

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, President Donald J. Trump (R) announced that he was directing the Pentagon to begin preparing for the creation of Space Force as America’s sixth branch of the armed forces.

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Pres. Trump said.

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) expressed his support for the Trump Administration’s efforts to stand up Space Force as a sixth branch of the military following Vice President Mike Pence’s speech on Space Force at the Pentagon.

“America’s military relies heavily on its space assets to secure our homeland against potential attackers,” Rep. Brooks said. “In this age of highly advanced weaponry, many of our most lethal and crucial weapons systems depend on global positioning satellites to function properly, and Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weaponry threaten those assets. For this reason, a dedicated Space Force is critical to protecting America’s national security interests and freedoms against those who would destroy them.”

“As a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has supported Space Force for years, I am pleased President Trump has aggressively pursued establishing Space Force as a sixth branch of the military,” Congressman Brooks continued. “Vice-President Mike Pence today detailing the dire need for Space Force and describing what the Pentagon needs from Congress to stand up Space Force in the coming years is a welcome step in this process. Going forward, I’m committed to working with the President, my colleagues, and the Pentagon to ensure Space Force is adequately funded and equipped.”

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On March 23, 2018, President Trump announced his National Space Strategy, which recognizes that America’s competitors have turned space into a warfighting domain, and charts a whole-of-government approach to maintaining America’s leadership in space.

“As Commander-in-Chief, President Trump’s highest priority is the safety and security of the American people,” Vice-President Mike Pence (R) said in a speech Thursday. “And while, too often, previous administrations all but neglected the growing security threats emerging in space, President Trump stated clearly and forcefully that space is, in his words, “a warfighting domain, just like…land, [and] air, and sea.”

“And just as we’ve done in ages past, the United States of America, under his leadership, will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield with American ingenuity and strength to defend our nation, protect our people, and carry the cause of liberty and peace into the next great American frontier,” Pence continued. “The time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people and to our nation. The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.”

Congressmen Mike Rogers (R-Saks) and Mo Brooks have been staunch advocates for the creation of the Space Force.

Rep. Rogers recently told the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce that Russia and China have developed the capability to destroy our satellites and that he wants the U.S. to develop the capability to destroy any adversary’s satellites while protecting our own satellites in orbit. Rogers predicted that Space Force will be headquartered in Colorado Springs.

The Pentagon has expressed some concerns that creating a sixth branch of the armed forces could cost “billions.”

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Sewell supports regional minimum wages

Brandon Moseley

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via Office of U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell

Tuesday, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) wants to raise the minimum wage; but thinks that different regions of the country should have different minimum wages. Rep. Sewell and Jim Kessler wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. Kessler is a former congressional aide who is now the Vice President of Policy at Third Way.

“It’s time to rethink the national minimum wage,” Rep. Sewell said. “It’s too low, but Congress has trouble raising it when different areas of the country have drastically different costs of living. I’m proposing a better idea – let’s pass a regional minimum wage, one that works for families whether they live in Selma, Alabama, or Manhattan.”

Congresswoman Sewell and Kessler wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “It’s time to rethink the national minimum wage. It’s too low at $7.25 an hour, but there’s a reason Congress hasn’t voted to raise it since 2007. Think Spokane, Wash., Midtown Manhattan and Selma, Ala. In Spokane a 2,700-square-foot home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms is on sale for $165,000, with a $600 monthly mortgage—roughly what New Yorkers pay to rent a parking spot. In Selma, the median home is valued around $90,000, according to Niche, a company that analyzes real-estate markets.”

Sewell and Kessler argue that Spokane, Manhattan, and Selma should not have the same minimum wage as the cost of living in the three places are widely different.

“Instead, America should have a minimum wage that provides roughly the same standard of living across the country,” Kessler and Sewell wrote. “Regional minimum wages would be based on the cost of living.”

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Conservatives would argue that instead of a government ordered approach to wages the free market should determine the wages. Supply and demand will set the minimum wage as employers compete for labor. Sewell and Kessler argue for a government ordered minimum wage but rather are proposing different minimum wages for different regions of the country.

Under the plan put forward by Kessler and Sewell, the minimum wage in Selma would be raised to $9.80 an hour; while the minimum wage in Spokane would be $11.30 an hour and the minimum wage in New York City would be $12.70 an hour.

The Third Way are centrist Democrats who oppose both Trump and the Republicans as well as the Bernie Sander Ocasio-Cortez socialists.

Congressman Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. Sewell is seeking her fifth term in the Congress. Sewell does not have a general election opponent so her re-election is assured.

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EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice to open next week in Montgomery

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