Wednesday, formal public impeachment hearings against President Donald J. Trump (R) were held. Alabama Republicans continued to denounce the impeachment inquiry as a “sham” and a “circus.”
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said that Democrats planned to impeach Trump from the moment that he was elected.
“Today the Democrats continued to show their irresponsible focus on impeaching President Trump at all costs – something they have been wanting to do since the day he was sworn in,” Lathan said. “Minutes after President Trump took his oath of office on January 20, 2017, the Washington Post headlines proclaimed ‘The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun’. Instead of focusing on the issues that matter most to Americans – like passing a budget before we are forced to have another government shutdown – the Democrats are continuing with their partisan impeachment stunts. The majority of Alabamians continue to support President Trump as he works to Keep America Great. American citizens see through this sham for what it is.”
Republican candidate for Congress and former Alabama state Senator Bill Hightower expressed similar views in a statement in response to Wednesday’s impeachment hearing in the House of Representatives.
“Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff’s circus was on full display today and it is clear that Congress needs a strong dose of south Alabama values,” Hightower said. “The Democrats are more concerned with impeaching the President than doing the job the people elected them to do. I hear from voters each and every day their concerns about jobs, rebuilding the military, and strengthening our trade agreements by passing the USMCA. I am running for Congress to get the job done for the people of the 1st congressional district, to be an ally to President Trump, and to fight back against the radical leftists that have hijacked Congress.”
“Less than 24 hours after President Trump was inaugurated, the Democrats have been obsessed with impeachment,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said on social media. “They know their radical policies will can’t win so they’re laser-focused on overturning the results of the 2016 presidential election. SHAM!”
Rep. Byrne is a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Doug Jones (D).
“As the sham impeachment inquiry against President Trump continues today, remember these important points,” Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) said. “This process has never been about justice, but about doing whatever it takes to unseat the President, regardless of actual facts.”
Palmer’s four “facts” are: the transcript of the phone call was released and it showed no discussion of military aid or conditionality; both Pres. Trump and Pres. Zelensky have said there was on pressure; Ukraine did not know that the aid had not been released at the time of the call; and the aid was released and Ukraine did not have to take any action for it to be released.
“This isn’t about the truth or facts,” Byrne said. “This whole impeachment sham is about destroying President Trump. I’m going to keep fighting back because the American people are sick of these political games.”
A second day of televised impeachment hearings will be held today.
Police deploy tear gas, rubber bullets on peaceful protesters in Huntsville
Huntsville police and state troopers with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency deployed tear gas and fired rubber bullets at peaceful protesters and demonstrators chanting “I can’t breathe” in downtown Huntsville Wednesday evening, injuring several people, including a small child.
Video from the scene shows demonstrators at the aftermath of an Alabama NAACP rally peppered with rubber bullets and tear gas as law enforcement helicopters hovered overhead.
One reporter on the ground described it as a “war zone.”
State Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, the minority leader in the Alabama House, said the scene was reminiscent of Bloody Sunday in Selma as at least 35 state troopers were called in to forcefully disperse a peaceful crowd.
“Unnecessarily Using Force Against Peaceful Protesters in Downtown Hunstville,” Daniels said on his Facebook page. “Who called the State Troopers? I am so disappointed in our local and county leadership. This is not Bloody Sunday. Why the hell were the State Troopers called.”
In an interview with APR Wednesday evening, Daniels said it was very disappointing that it got to this point and he is demanding answers from local and state officials about why such a show of force and violence on the part of law enforcement was necessary.
“Thirty-five state troopers,” Daniels said. “This is the type of presence that was at Bloody Sunday.”
Daniels said there were several thousand people present at the formal demonstration, and several hundred stayed after the permit expired, but none of it appeared violent or disruptive.
“Peaceful protesters and concerned citizens — where there is no evidence of any type of disruption, in my mind,” Daniels said. “I don’t understand why local, county and state law enforcement — to the sum of 35 state troopers being present with full gear. It’s just ridiculous to me and very disappointing. I’m waiting for answers.”
Daniels and another state representative spoke at the rally earlier in the evening. He said he wondered if there was a threat posed or intelligence, which would be the only justification for such a deployment of force, and, if so, why he wasn’t notified.
“It leads me to believe that it was an effort to justify the actual number of law enforcement there,” Daniels said. “It looks to me like they were looking to justify the number of law enforcement that was there.”
Audio dispersement attempt. pic.twitter.com/Yv1SaBcvLZ
— Ian Hoppe (@IanHoppe) June 4, 2020
Police began clearing the courthouse square in downtown Huntsville, where a Confederate memorial stands, after 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to AL.com. A protest permit expired at 6:30 p.m., leading armed riot police to disperse the crowd with pepper gas and rubber bullets.
The first sign of any offensive action by protesters came after police deployed smoke and after trooper cars sped through the area. The protesters threw water bottles at state trooper cars.
Pretty shocking scene of what appears to be peaceful protesters shot at by police with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas. pic.twitter.com/2RF0NgN752
— Chip Brownlee (@ByChipBrownlee) June 4, 2020
Protesters moved to Big Spring Park near Huntsville’s Von Braun Center before they were again dosed with a “heavy” dose of tear gas, which carried across to a media staging area and obscured a Marriott hotel in smoke.
AL.com’s Paul Gattis and Ian Hoppe report that a small child — less than four years old — was caught in the tear gas and began screaming.
A small girl, maybe three years old , was just enveloped in a cloud of tear gas. She screamed while her dad ran away with her.
— Ian Hoppe (@IanHoppe) June 4, 2020
Huntsville police said there had been no property damage or violence during the protest.
Lt. Michael Johnson with the Huntsville Police Department told Huntsville’s WHNT that the police department ended what they thought was “a pretty peaceful protest.”
“Once that permit expired, we still waited a good amount of time,” Johnson said.
It appears law enforcement waited about an hour before beginning attempts to disperse the demonstrators with forceful means like tear gas and rubber bullets.
“It started to get a little hostile. A couple of things were thrown at us,” Johnson said. “The verbiage, some of the threats, the hostility, blocking the road — we just cannot have that.”
Johnson said police were not “going to roll the dice” to see if the protest turned out to be violent.
“We’re not going to let this city go through what other cities go through,” Johnson said, justifying using a “chemical agent” on peaceful protesters.
Before riot police sprayed them with tear gas and rubber bullets, protesters chanted “we are peaceful.”
Daniels said people concerned about police brutality and what he called an inappropriate use of force Wednesday should show up at the ballot box and demand answers.
Jefferson County imposes curfew following unrest
The Jefferson County Commission on Tuesday placed the entire county under a curfew.
The curfew will be in effect Tuesday, June 2 and last through June 9, 2020. The curfew will run from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The curfew is in response to unrest that erupted in Birmingham on Sunday night. Though most of the protests during the day were peaceful, dozens of businesses were burglarized and many buildings suffered damages from vandals later in the evening.
The chaotic events Sunday night followed a peaceful protest over allegations of police brutality and social injustice. These protests followed the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
Many of Jefferson County’s 68 municipalities had already imposed local curfews.
“No one deserved what happened last night in this city, we call home, Birmingham,’’ Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a statement. “Birmingham, this is not us. This is not who we are. This is not how we taught the world how to protest.’’
Birmingham imposed a curfew earlier this year to slow the spread of COVID-19, but that was lifted in May. Health officials have expressed concerns that the protests and mass gatherings will lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Alabama.
There have been at least 18,554 confirmed cases in Alabama and 651 COVID-19 deaths.
The Jefferson County curfew will be enforced by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputies in unincorporated parts of the County and in those municipalities that rely on the Sheriff’s Department for their police protection.
In those municipalities with police forces, the authority to enforce the curfew will rest with local police departments.
Persons violating the curfew resolution can be fined up to $500 and/or jailed for up to six months if convicted.
A relief fund for the small businesses that were damaged Sunday night has been established.
Alabama Farmers Federation endorses Jerry Carl
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s political action committee, FarmPAC, announced Tuesday they have endorsed Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.
“We take pride in being a grassroots organization with local leaders driving the endorsement process,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “After careful consideration, county Federations in southwest Alabama made their recommendation, and I am pleased to announce the Alabama Farmers Federation has endorsed Jerry Carl. Alabama’s 1st Congressional district has a rich heritage rooted in agriculture and timber, and Jerry will be a strong advocate from those industries in Washington.”
Carl expressed his appreciation for the federation’s endorsement.
“It is an incredible honor to have the endorsement of the Alabama Farmers Federation,” Carl said. “With agriculture being our state’s largest industry, our farmers are the backbone of our state and our economy. They represent the hard-working interests of the district that I will fight for in Congress as we work to get our economy back on track. The Federation knows I will fight tirelessly for the president’s agenda and will do what is needed to support the hard-working men and women who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs.”
Congressional endorsements are recommended by county federations in each district based on the candidates’ positions on key issues impacting farmers and rural Alabama.
Carl is running in the Republican primary runoff against former State Sen. Bill Hightower.
The 1st Congressional District is open because incumbent Rep. Bradley Byrne is not seeking re-election.
The eventual winner of the Republican nomination will face the winner of the Democratic Party primary runoff in the November 3 general election. The Democratic runoff is between Kiani Gardner and James Averhart.
Other candidates in the July 14 runoff races endorsed by the Federation include Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate, Jeff Coleman in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District and incumbent Judge Beth Kellum for Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2.
The Federation encourages voters concerned about casting a vote in person to follow guidance from Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
“Amid coronavirus concerns, it is important to remember that Alabamians who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness have the opportunity to avoid the polls on Election Day by casting an absentee ballot,” Merrill said. “Alabamians can access the application online or by visiting or calling their local Absentee Election Manager’s office.”
Sewell implores Alabamians “to speak out and demand change without violence”
Alabama U.S. Rep.Terri Sewell said that her heart aches for George Floyd and that anger should be directed not to violence but to action.
“The heroes of the Civil Rights Movement showed us it is possible to change history without damaging property and torching businesses that our community members depend on, so I implore all Alabamians to speak out and demand change without violence,” Sewell said. “We cannot let violence distract from the legitimate anger and frustration that we must channel toward action. I pray for both peace and justice.”
Sewell posted a video message Monday in response to protests across the country, which have at some points, turned violent and chaotic. On Sunday, several reporters were attacked in Birmingham, and some businesses were vandalized.
The representative’s video message comes after Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed also called peaceful demonstration. Birmingham implemented a curfew in response to the riotous demonstrations Sunday evening, but the city also removed a Confederate monument from Linn Park.
“To all those who feel marginalized because of the color of your skin: I see you and I hear you,” Sewell said. “Your pain and hopelessness is legitimate — since the founding of our nation, our criminal justice system has failed our black and brown communities. My heart aches for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and the countless others whose senseless deaths have not made the national news cycle.”
Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District and is the only black member of Alabama’s congressional delegation.
“As a daughter of Selma, I myself have struggled to reconcile with the moment in which we continue to find ourselves, over and over,” Sewell said in the video statement. “The Foot Soldiers who came before us fought to create a better future, but every day we are reminded that that fight is far from over. They sacrificed their lives in pursuit of an America that lives up to its ideals – an America that we have not yet reached more than 55 years later.”
Sewell said the racism that causes pain can be seen plainly in police brutality and in the staggering health disparities black communities have endured before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It can be seen in thinly-veiled attempts to put African Americans in our place, holding on to and idolizing a time when our bodies were not our own,” she said. “And it can be seen in the state-sanctioned holidays and monuments that honor the leaders of the Confederacy, including today, ‘Jefferson Davis Day.’”
Sewell said she also knows that the vast majority of Americans across the country and in Birmingham are peacefully protesting for social justice.
“I wish I had all the answers and I could give us all the solutions we need,” Sewell concluded. “For now, I promise that I will work tirelessly to do absolutely everything within my power to bring peace and justice to our communities.”
“My Administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served,” President Donald Trump said on Monday. “He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries of peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob.”
Floyd was killed while being arrested by the Minneapolis Police Department on suspicion of counterfeiting. The police officer who killed Floyd has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Activists say more widespread reform of policing and the criminal justice system needs to happen, and the other officers involved in Floyd’s homicide should also be charged.
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