Our complete inundation by this resilient and historic pandemic remains, as in 2020, the most significant story of this year—but not the only one.
Here are four stories worth remembering from 2021.
Alabama’s involvement in Jan 6
A genuinely unparalleled event in contemporary U.S history occurred at the onset of the year with the violent assault on Congress by supporters and sympathizers of former U.S President Donald Trump. The attempt insurrection involved multiple individuals from Alabama, from individual residents, the Attorney General, and nearly all elected members of Congress from Alabama.
In December of last year, U.S Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, became the first congressman to announce his objection to the 2020 U.S Presidential Election results. Hours before the Capitol assault, Brooks’ urged those present on the Capitol Mall to “start taking down names and kicking ass,” and in the aftermath of the assault deflected blame for the deadly attack on supposed Antifa infiltrators.
U.S Senator Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, who was largely elected on a promise to support former President Trump from the Senate, met with executive staff and family of the president at Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C, a day before the assault on the Capitol.
Both Senators, along with almost all Republican members of the Alabama Delegation, voted against the ratification of the electoral results.
In September, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall denied possession of any emails sent between his office and the Rule of Law Defense Fund–, the dark money policy wing of the Republican Attorneys General Association that funded robocalls that instructed citizens to “March to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,” and that is lead by Marshall. In the months before the 2020 election, RAGA held a two-day “war games” conference in Atlanta to discuss strategies for a potential election night loss for Trump, which involved “32 AG Staff Members,”, according to records, and meetings for planning “what could come if we lose the White House,” Marshall’s office has refused to reveal his whereabouts before and during the Jan 6 insurrection in Washington D.C.
Directly after the attempted insurrection, APR identified Will Watson of Auburn as a member of the mob that attacked the capital. Watson, 23, was arrested five days later at his residence in Auburn. It was learned later, Watson skipped bail on narcotics charges to participate in the attack and is now potentially facing federal charges of civil disorder, entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon, and violent entry or disorderly conduct.
The Alabama Legislator’s Special Session on redistricting
In November, The Alabama State House approved new boundaries for the state’s congressional, legislative, and state school board voting districts in its Special Session on Redistricting. The outcome protected the Republican supermajority in the State House and drew several almost instantaneous lawsuits alleging racial gerrymandering in the approved maps.
The already continuous special session was made more so by the introduction of several COVID-19 vaccine-related bills, two of which passed, that give medical and religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccines, restricts schools from asking students for COVID-19 vaccination status, and require parental consent for minors wishing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
With a few scattered bands of protesters omnipresent throughout the session, Republicans in the State House gathered the required two-thirds majority to pass the non-agenda bills, which were signed along with the redistricting bills by the Governor in early November.
The Alabama Legislator’s Special Session on prison construction and reform
In the face of a federal lawsuit alleging inhumane and unconstitutional treatment of inmates in certain Alabama prisons, Alabama’s first legislative special session for 2021 saw the State House approve a massive $1.3 billion slate of prison construction bills, with $400 million of the approved funds to come from federal COVID-19 aid allocation through the American Rescue Plan.
Critics, including protestors who demonstrated outside the State House during the session, condemned the use of American Rescue Act funds for prison construction and questioned whether more facilities would solve underlying problems within Alabama Department of Correction facilitates.
The Birmingham Mayor’s race
In August, one of the most significant African-American leaders in Alabama, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, was re-elected to his post as Birmingham’s Mayor after a heated, but decidedly lopsided election against several mayoral challengers.
Woodfin– whose endorsements ranged from the Jefferson County Democratic Progressive Council to U.S President Joe Biden–, won handily against former Mayor William Bell, current Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales, and local businessmen Chris Woods, gaining 64.3 percent of the total vote. Continued effective response from the city to the COVID-19 pandemic, reassessment, and implementation of best practices for the Birmingham Police Department, and continued neighborhood revitalization were among the issues the Mayor pledged to continue working towards.
In late November, Woodfin was sworn into his second term as Mayor in Birmingham’s Linn Park.