NAACP Sues Over Mississippi Legislation Expanding State Power in Jackson
The NAACP filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) and other members of the government over two pieces of state law which would expand state influence over policing in the capital city of Jackson.
Reeves signed the two laws — House Bill 1020 and Senate Bill 2343 — this week. The House bill creates a separate, state-controlled legal system for the Capital Complex Improvement District (CCID), a 17.5 square-mile area surrounding the Capitol building in Jackson, including a panel of state-appointed judges. The Senate bill makes it more difficult for people to protest at the Capitol and other state buildings by requiring permits through the state-controlled Capitol Police.
The NAACP argued that the two measures violate the 14th Amendment by discriminating against the citizens of Jackson, an overwhelmingly Black city. The state’s government is GOP-controlled and majority white.
“In violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, these laws target Jackson’s majority-Black residents on the basis of race for a separate and unequal policing structure and criminal justice system to which no other residents of the State are subjected,” the suit says.
The bills double the CCID in size and give Capitol Police complete jurisdiction inside it, as well as secondary jurisdiction in the entire city. As a state department, Capitol Police are not accountable to Jackson voters.
Anyone arrested by the police would be tried in a court made state-appointed judges, making the CCID the only region in the state which would not elect its judges.
CCID judges also would not have to live in Jackson, and the bill creates a state-appointed prosecutor position for the district, who would also not be accountable to local voters.
The four elected judges in Hinds County, which includes Jackson, are all Black. The bill would also add judges to that county circuit, appointed by the white Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court.
“Taken together … these provisions strip Jackson residents … of their rights to enjoy the full protections of the law and to exercise the same civil liberties as other Mississippi citizens,” the suit reads.
The state government has feuded with Jackson leaders for years, and the current state legislature has increasingly passed bills wearing away the city’s independence from state control.
In February the state took control of the city’s utility, which has struggled in recent years to properly supply water among a slew of breakdowns and aging infrastructure.
Another bill on the state legislature’s docket would control how the city is able to spend its sales tax revenue, if passed.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba (D), who is Black, has harshly criticized the pair of new bills, comparing them to apartheid.
“If we allow this type of legislation to stand in Jackson, Mississippi, it’s a matter of time before it will hit New Orleans, it’s a matter of time before it hits Detroit, or wherever we find our people,” he said.
The bills’ authors have defended the provisions, saying they are necessary to curb rising crime in the city.
“There’s absolutely nothing about House Bill 1020 — when I say nothing, I mean absolutely zero — that is racially motivated,” state Rep. Trey Lamar (R) told The New York Times. Lamar is the primary author of the House bill.
But the NAACP says the bill doesn’t help stop crime at all.
“Jacksonians want a safer city more than anyone, but this is not what real public safety looks like,” Mississippi NAACP Executive Director Jarvis Dortch said in a statement Friday. “If our state lawmakers really wanted to help fight crime, they would invest more tax dollars into mental health and anti-poverty programs to better support all of our communities, not finding new ways to oppress and overpower the Black residents of this state.”
“No one should have to live with the fear of being targeted, harassed, or killed by law enforcement, especially in their own neighborhoods,” he added.
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