Earlier this year, Mississippi introduced a highly controversial bill that increases state control over Jackson’s judicial system and policing. Critics argue that the bill is undemocratic and discriminates against the majority black population of Jackson. Now the people of Mississippi’s capital are taking matters into their own hands by filing two lawsuits against the matter.
The legislation was designed to create a separate judicial and law enforcement district within the city, it triggered racial issues and a topic of quiet oppression, mimicking the once-existing Jim Crow laws.
The two Bills 1020 and 2343, were signed by Governor Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) on Friday, April 21.
Three Jackson residents and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have filed two lawsuits in the Federal Court of the Southern District of Mississippi. They began challenging the constitutionality of the new laws the very same day Tate Reeves signed the House Bill and its companion legislation Senate Bill 2343.
One lawsuit explains that the bills create a separate and unequal policing structure and the criminal justice system on the basis of race.
To break down the legislation simply, its objective is to establish a separate judicial district in the white-majority spaces and more affluent areas of Jackson, despite the city being home to estimated 82.5% black citizens.
The bills will increase heavy policing, a profession notoriously known for having poor disparity for the African American community in Jackson, despite the importance of having a police department that accurately represents the community they serve.
Not only does the majority-black city’s PD have a reputation for underrepresenting the black community, but it is also argued by the community that the police mistreat them.
Jarvis Dortch, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said the new Bills are simply state lawmakers’ way of “finding new ways to oppress and overpower the Black residents of this state.”
It’s also being argued that as a result of the two Bills, a large portion of the population will not receive fair representation in court, with a distinct social and racial hierarchy that cannot be ignored.
The lawsuits highlight some shocking facts, despite the white population only making up for 15 percent of Jackson’s population, the CCID will expand to approximately 17.5 square miles of specifically, roughly half of the white population.
It may come as no surprise that only one of the 53 black members of the legislature supported the bills. It has been agreed with most that the crime rate in Jackson does require attention and a solution, but that most members have not been given an opportunity to have an input on the matter of what the solution should be.
The bills were ultimately finalised by the white members who ignored the outrage of the black members and moved forward with the legislation regardless.
There has been widespread criticism for displaying similarities with the Jim Crow era of the United States, when black Americans were not given a voice and were deprived of basic human rights, such as voting and being involved in political decision-making.
Despite the white members insisting there was no racial intent in the legislation, it has been seen by many as offensive and thoughtless given Mississippi’s racist and oppressive history.
The lawsuit has many arguments, some being that the bills make it more difficult to hold peaceful protests within the Capital Complex Improvement District, and that the 1020 Bill denies and disqualifies the majority black population of Jackson of the rights accorded to every other Mississippi resident.
“African Americans in Mississippi died so that we could vote. How does weakening the right to self-governance make us safer? Safety comes from communities having the resources they need to develop the safeguards they know will be appropriate and effective. In the struggle for freedom, we want that responsibility. H.B. 1020 denies us that and makes us less of a democracy.” – An Saunders
Edited by: Yasmin Hailes
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