On Thursday night, parents in Hoover, Ala., couldn’t take their children to the city’s annual Christmas Tree lighting because one group of people are coming into their town to ruin the most wonderful time of year. But instead of lamenting how they were missing out on their yearly tradition, the parents should have been grateful for one thing:
Unlike the parents of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr., their kids are still alive.
Since E.J. Bradford was shot and killed by an off-duty Hoover police officer working at the Riverchase Galleria Mall on Nov. 22, protesters have disrupted the city, using guerilla-style demonstration, hoping to pressure the affluent suburb of Birmingham for justice and transparency.
And it’s starting to work.
On Monday night, the Hoover city leaders were forced to abruptly end a meeting after citizens “got out of hand” by raising their voices during the scheduled city council meeting.
While the protests have all been peaceful, many Hoover residents have started speak out about the activity, labeling the activists as “domestic terrorists” and using social media to make racist remarks. Hooverites have also publicly called for the police to use force against the protesters.
Derrick Murphy, Hoover’s lone black city councilman rebuked the comments, saying: “some of the members of our community and outside of community took to social media after the protest and said some hateful, racist things that have no place in the city of Hoover.”
The consternation is the result of the tactics organized by local activists including protest leader Carlos Chaverst Jr. Targeting local businesses, individuals and even highways, Chaverst says the goal is to make the officials feel pressure not only from the protests but from residents, business owners and taxpayers who won’t be allowed to ignore that their police force killed an innocent 21-year-old black man.
“His blood is on the whole city of Hoover,” Chaverst told The Root in an exclusive interview. “We’re going to shut it down and make them uncomfortable until we get justice for E.J. Bradford.”
Using what Chaverst called “pop-up protests,” Chaverst said that the group of activists meet at predetermined locations and then travel to the various destinations to hold their demonstrations. The list of protests sites include:
- The home of Hoover Mayor Frank Bracato
- The Galleria Mall
- The largest movie theater in Hoover
- Sam’s Club
- The Hoover Police Department
- City Hall
But is it working?
The economic impact could cripple one of Alabama’s busiest shopping hubs. Sixty-five percent of Hoover’s revenue comes from sales taxes. And when The Root visited the Galleria four days after the shooting, during what was supposed to be a busy Christmas shopping season, the mall was a ghost town.
“I can say our business has slowed down,” said Patricia, the store manager at one of the Galleria’s department stores. Patricia asked that we not use her last name, but said that her job duties include comparing the businesses daily revenue to the revenue from previous years.
“When I look at last year’s sales numbers, we’re not doing half the numbers,” she explained.
On Sunday, the protesters demonstrated outside the AMC Patton Creek Theater complex, forcing the large, 15-screen theater to stop selling tickets. according to AL.com and Chaverst. Last night, the protesters targeted a Sam’s Club and hit the Galleria again, causing stores to close early.
Chaverst said the concept of economic retaliation has not only inspired more racist backlash from Hoover residents, but it has also made the police more aggressive.
“When we first started protesting, there would be five or six police officers,” Chaverst explained to The Root. “Now it’s four dozen.
“And—I’ve never seen this—but now they [the police officers] have started removing their name tags and their badge numbers. We can’t tell if they’re actual officers, terrorists, Klansmen or what!”
But Chaverst claimed that this was “just the beginning.” He said the group was going to show up at local businesses like WalMart and at the homes of city officials.
“I have the names and addresses of every police officer in Hoover,” he said. “Until we get justice for E.J., we won’t stop.”
Asked what “justice” means, Chaverst said that they are demanding the mayor’s resignation, charges filed against the officer who committed the shooting, and “the release of all video evidence.” They are also demanding that Captain Greg Rector, who falsely accused Bradford of crimes on national television and in a written statement, be fired.
No one knows if the tactics employed by the protesters will force officials to concede to any of these demands. But it is undeniable that the demonstrations have taken an economic toll on the city and forced residents to confront issues of race, class and state violence.
Until justice prevails, Chaverst said Hoover’s residents should look for roads to be blocked, stores to be closed and for protests to continue in their neighborhoods, homes and businesses.
Of course, the lives of Hoover’s residents won’t be disrupted nearly as much as the lives of E.J. Bradford’s parents ...
But that Christmas tree, though ...
Peace on earth and good will toward men.