By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford announced his support for protection of section five of the Voting Rights Act at a press conference on the state house steps.
Ford was joined by Rose Sanders, wife of state Senator Hank Sanders (D-Selma), and supporters from Macon County who spoke in support of the protection of voting rights in Alabama.
Ford, Sanders and others, most notably Islamic leader Louis Farrakhan, plan to lead a caravan across the state in support of voting rights. They will start at the 16th Street Baptist Church on Friday, then move to Shelby County before making stops in Selma and the Capitol in Montgomery.
Farrakhan’s presence has drawn criticism from many in the state, due to his role as the leader of the Nation of Islam. He is also well known for organizing the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, D.C., which asked Black men to renew their commitments to their families.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has the Nation of Islam on their Hate List due to their separatist ideology, a SPLC representative says.
The SPLC website specifies that Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, specifically “its bizarre theology of innate black superiority over whites — a belief system vehemently and consistently rejected by mainstream Muslims — and the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric of its leaders, including top minister Louis Farrakhan” have earned its spot on the Hate List.
Sanders challenged the SPLC, saying, “It amazes me that the Southern Poverty Law Center, less than two blocks away, would give negative statements about Minister Farrakhan, who has segregated no one. He did not place the bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church. He was not in the legislature just last month passing laws that are anti-Black and anti-poor.”
“On their list of hate and intolerance, they should place their own name,” Sanders said.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce their ruling in Shelby v. Holder, challenging section five of the Voting Rights Act, this month. If section five is overturned, states with a documented history of discrimination in voting rights will not require clearance from the US Justice Department before changing election laws.
Ford called the timing of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court and the issues going on in Alabama “coincidental.”
Citizens voted on a constitutional amendment in 2003 to allow electronic bingo in Greene and Macon Counties, however that vote was essentially “nullified” when State Troopers raided VictoryLand in February, costing Macon County over 2,000 jobs, according to Ford.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange denied that the gambling laws have anything to do with the Voting Rights Act and that no one has impeded on the voting rights of Macon County residents.
Ford and Sanders will be joined in Birmingham on Friday to rally with Farrakhan and others as they begin their march in support of voting rights.