Alabama's New Anti-BLM 'Riot Bill' Targets Peaceful Black Protesters. I Know Because I Was One of Them

Illustration for article titled Alabama's New Anti-BLM 'Riot Bill' Targets Peaceful Black Protesters. I Know Because I Was One of Them
Photo: Michael Harriot

Finally, all my years of “thugging” have paid off! I’m getting my own law!

Although I’ve never rioted, looted or raised a hand at a law enforcement officer, I’ve been confronted by cops, surveilled and arrested for participating in—or, in one case, simply being present during—peaceful protests. As the only Black person standing among a group of white journalists covering a protest in Birmingham, Ala., I was selected for arrest by the Birmingham Police Department, jailed and charged with violating a city curfew that specifically excluded journalists.

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It was not the first time.

On December 20, 2014, I actually participated in a one-person protest that blocked traffic at one of the city’s most affluent shopping areas during the Christmas shopping season. Although I was not arrested, a new legislative proposal in Alabama would stop negro scofflaws like me from peacefully exercising their constitutional rights by sentencing them to mandatory jail terms.

Alabama State Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Morris) recently introduced HB445, a bill that “would amend the crimes of riot and inciting to riot and would establish the crimes of aggravated riot and unlawful traffic interference.” Not only would the law impose mandatory sentences, but it would also expand the definition of “inciting a riot” to include anyone who funds a “tumultuous disturbance in a public place or penal institution by five or more persons assembled together.”

In other words, Black Lives Matter.

In addition to taking away the constitutional right to habeas corpus (unlawful detention or imprisonment) from people who “impede vehicular traffic” (as Michael Harriot did), Treadaway’s bill would also block state grants and aid for cities that “dissolves or defunds a local law enforcement agency.”

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In other words, Black Lives Matter.

Treadaway, a retired police officer and author of the bill, admitted that he came up with this racist idea after watching the recent riots against democracy and due process. Not the one at the Capitol, that was white people! Treadaway said he watched a police officer kneel on George Floyd’s neck and was inspired to do something...about people’s reaction to the police killing, not the neck-kneeling part.

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The Associated Press reports:

Treadaway said he began drafting the bill after a summer protest in Birmingham — in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis — turned destructive and led to multiple businesses being damaged.

“This summer what I saw was so alarming,” Treadaway, R-Morris said. “That situation was hijacked. People could have died. Police officers were attacked,”

Treadaway said he is not talking about peaceful protests but said law enforcement needs additional tools to deter people “who are hell-bent on destruction.”

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The proposed aggravated riot law would possibly apply to people like 2020 The Root 100 honoree Jermaine “FunnyMaine” Johnson, who was charged with “inciting a riot” after speaking out against police brutality and Confederate monuments at a rally that ended with demonstrators defying an Alabama law that protects Confederate monuments.

“This proposed legislation by Alabama lawmakers does not target the act of rioting nor address its root causes,” Johnson told The Root on Thursday. “It is merely an attempt to single out BLM protestors, attack their First Amendment rights and slap the standard ‘Law and Order’ label on it for optics.”

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To be fair, a lot of those statues were injured.

Apparently, the small-government conservatives who claim to stand for fiscal responsibility, the Constitution and limited government interference in local issues do not believe that Black people should have access to the same constitutional “freedoms.” Aside from hijacking the First Amendment, they are punishing municipalities that reduce funds to parts of their local government. And how do the Republicans propose to punish these cities? They’re going to reduce funds to the parts of their government!

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They’re literally defunding the police to fight against defunding the police!

And here is the crazy part. The people who are out here rioting, looting and hurting law enforcement officers are actually white! Of the 11 police officers killed in the line of duty in the last decade, six of the people convicted were white (I didn’t count the dog). It was white people who were tearing down those statues. And when I was arrested, a group of protesters were awaiting the arrival of the Ku Klux Klan, who had announced that they were going to march in Birmingham. And who were these people who broke curfew to wait for the Klan?

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Here’s a picture:

Illustration for article titled Alabama's New Anti-BLM 'Riot Bill' Targets Peaceful Black Protesters. I Know Because I Was One of Them
Photo: Michael Harriot
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All the Black people had left because the Klan never showed up.

In fact, one of the first people arrested after the Capitol riot was a white man from Alabama who just happened to have a truckload of guns and bombs, according to the Associated Press. And another. And another. And another. Another died from a heart attack during the insurrection.

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“Deep South conservatives are only the standard of ‘law and order’ or basic human decency in their own minds,” explained Johnson. “Their ideology is built around ‘chaos and terror’ for everyone who will not bend to their doctrine of white supremacy, and this proposed legislation is just the latest piece of evidence.”

He added: “Alabama has so many more issues that deserve attention and legislation like education, poverty, healthcare and infrastructure. Yet, our state officials continue to pour energy into such frivolous causes.”

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And that’s why racism is dumb.

Because it is the white people of Alabama who are rioting and looting. It is the white people of Alabama who are violent. But their looting, rioting and violence aren’t confined to injustice. They enact the violence of poverty, racism, police violence and inequality all day every day. Yet they never face the consequences.

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It’s a riot, isn’t it?

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.

DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo

I find it hard to believe that Alabama, a state with the highest percentage of black people in the country, yet has never burdened a black person with election to statewide office, could do such a thing.

Or that Alabama, 100 years after losing the Civil War, had registered nearly 7% of its black population to vote could do such a thing.