Tuesday, August 14, 2018


By Cash Michaels
Special to the NNPA

            [CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.] To say that Charlottesville, Va. held its collective breath on August 12th– the first anniversary of the deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist violence a year ago that tragically took the life of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old white anti-racist protestor, is an understatement.
            Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, and Charlottesville city officials, declared a state of emergency, mobilizing every available police officer and state trooper in an unyielding show of force, to preempt the kind of street clashes that infamously marked the Ku Klux Klan and skinhead demonstrations in August 2017.         
Stung by withering criticism that law enforcement did little to stop the onslaught then, officials virtually shut down the core Charlottesville downtown area for the August 10 – 12thweekend to vehicular traffic, and screened pedestrians for weapons.
            Indeed, the “over-policing” this year, many residents complained, actually raised tensions, especially since the “Unite the Right” rally organizers moved their demonstration to Washington, D.C. 
Anti-racism protestors – most of whom were students from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville (UVA), bristled when a phalanx of state troopers, local police, hovering helicopters, and at one point, National Guardsmen with rifles and armored vehicles, flooded the corner of Fourth and Water streets downtown – the corner where Heather Heyer was fatally struck by the car allegedly driven by a neo-Nazi – interfering with their group memorial.
            There were intense verbal confrontations, and four arrests, but ultimately, no violence.
            “Yes, there are some inconveniences, but we’d rather err on the side of safety this year, said Councilman Wes Bellamy, who helped to calm tensions between demonstrators and police.
            A tense weekend in Charlottesville, but while church and civic groups sponsored numerous events to promote racial and spiritual harmony during the tragic August 12thanniversary, some residents were resentful, saying that Ms. Heyer may have been the only protestor killed last year, but there were many other victims of white supremacist violence then, as well, who are rarely spoken of.
            “I think that there’s a universal acceptance that what happened here was disgraceful, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton told reporters after preaching Sunday morning service at First Zion African Baptist Church. “But they do not want this to be representative of their city, and they want to move forward.”
            And then there are the everyday challenges that many say are more important than removing confederate statues.
            Charlottesville is suffering many of the same struggles as other growing small and mid-size metropolitan areas, and those who consider themselves the working poor here say that not much is being done in the area of raising low wages, creating economic opportunities, or developing enough affordable housing stock for struggling families.
            “They’re building all of the new homes and apartments for folks making six-figures,” said “Lloyd,” an independent cab driver who had to change professions in order to make ends meet.
            For the first time in its history, Charlottesville has two African-Americans on its City Council – Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Councilman Bellamy -  both of whom were elected on the promise of improving the quality of life. 
            But talk with residents, like cab drivers who find themselves having to work seven-days a-week just to keep up with a spiraling cost of living in housing costs alone, and you get a sense of abandonment against the backdrop of the “haves” getting what they want, because they have those “six-figure salaries.”
            To many black residents, the racial history of Charlottesville strongly lends itself to a sense of oppression. Even Mayor Walker, during an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday.
            The issue is this deep-seated racism that- that we have here,” Mayor Walker said. “And that's the challenge. And that's a lot of work.”
And it doesn’t help that many believe the white power structure in Charlottesville, the home os Thomas Jefferson, caters to UVA – arguably the largest employer in the city next to the hospital system.
And also an institution historically built on the backs of slaves. 
Leaders like Councilman Bellamy, insist that progress is being made when it comes to planning for affordable housing, economic development, and even the hiring of more black police officers (few were seen on patrol during the state of emergency).
But until that progress is seen, and felt, residents say the hard feelings surrounding race, and lack of forward mobility for the average working person in Charlottesville, will remain tragic anniversary after anniversary.
A makeshift memorial commemorating Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old white woman killed allegedly by a Neo-Nazi, marks the place where she died on Fourth Street in downtown Charlottesville [Cash Michaels Photo] 

Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton is greeted by well-wishers at First Zion African Baptist Church in Charlottesville after he preached Sunday morning [Cash Michaels Photo]

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            The state NAACP is applauding two recent major federal court decisions that it says “protects the lives….” and voting rights of African-Americans across the state.
Last week, a federal District Court judge issued an order instructing officials in Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland counties to stop purging  primarily black voters from official registration lists of eligible voters “…in elections for federal office….when those challenges are based on change of residency, and the State has neither received written confirmation from the voter of a change of residency outside of the county, nor complied with the NVRA’s (National Voter Registration Act) prior notice requirement and two-election cycle waiting period. 
According to the US Dept. of Justice, “Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also known as the "NVRA" and the "Motor Voter Act"), to enhance voting opportunities for every American. The Act has made it easier for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their registration.”
Thus, those counties cited in the court order were sued for violating the NVRA by purging black voters off their respective eligible voter registration lists, without properly  following NVRA guidelines.
The Federal Court order also restricted election officials in those counties from “…using the challenge procedure set forth in [state law] to remove voters from the rolls without individualized inquiry as to the circumstances of each voter in the 90 days preceding a federal election in the absence of a request of the registrant, necessity under State law by reason of criminal conviction or mental incapacity, or the death of the registrant; and holding hearings or taking any other action(s) to process challenges filed under those provisions in the circumstances identified above. “
Finally, the court ordered that Kim Strach, the executive director of the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement “…shall take all reasonable and necessary steps to ensure statewide compliance with the NVRA, consistent with this [court order].”
According to Irving Joyner, NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee chairman, “This order now covers every county in the State. Another great victory for African Americans and racial minority voters.”
Another “great victory” for the NCNAACP and its legal coalition came this week, when Federal District Court Judge Loretta Biggs denied a motion by Duke Energy to dismiss some of the claims in the Clean Water Act citizen suit against the utility giant’s coal ash pollution at Belews Creek.
“The judge rejected Duke Energy’s arguments—mostly rehashed versions of its unsuccessful arguments in other coal ash cases—that DEQ was diligently prosecuting some of the same violations in its state enforcement actions, that Duke Energy’s permit “shielded” it from citizen enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and that [plaintiffs] did not spell out facts in [their] complaint that would show Duke Energy violated its permit,” said attorney Joyner in a statement.
Joyner continued, “This litigation is very important to the NC NAACP because the coal ash dumping by Duke Energy has resulted in the deaths and long-term cancer conditions for hundreds of African Americans who live in and around Walnut Cove, NC. Duke Energy has not evidenced any concerns for the lives of people who live in the Walnut Cove (Stokes County) communities by taking reasonable and appropriate steps to clean up the environmental mess that the Company's operations have caused.
“The NC NAACP is elated with Judge Biggs' legal determination that Duke Energy can be held to account for its environmental misdeeds,” atty Joyner concluded.



            [RALEIGH] Motorists who’ve gone to their local Division of Motor Vehicles office recently have had to wait hours for service, especially for drivers licenses. Well help is on the way, DMV officials say, but more help has to be hired, and reassigned first. More license examiners will be employed, and available staff will be reassigned to help cut the long lines that have been forming across the state. All to fill 80 current vacancies, with an addition of 20 more. Plus, at least 14 examiners who work from mobile offices will be reassigned as well. Part of the reason for the long lines? The new REAL ID that people have been urged to get now. DMV apparently was not prepared for the enormous response.

            [RALEIGH] It looks like Chris Anglin’s party affiliation will appear on this November’s election ballots after all. And so will Rebecca Edwards’ name as well. A Wake Superior Court judge ruled last week that a new law the Republican-led legislature passed in an extra special session was out of order and should not have removed the party affiliations of Anglin and Edwards from the ballot retroactively because it denied them of due process. This week, the judge added that the law further denied the candidates their constitutional rights, and struck it down off the books. 
Anglin was a Democrat who switched over to run for the state Supreme Court as a Republican right before the filing deadline. State Republicans, calling him “the enemy,” didn’t like it, suspecting he was a plant to hurt the reelection of incumbent GOP candidate Associate Justice Barbara Jackson, so they passed a law mandating that candidates must be members of a party at least 90 days prior to running for office, and made it retroactive. That affected Ms. Edwards too, who is running as a Democrat for Wake district court judge.
Republican legislative can appeal the ruling.

            [DURHAM] A year ago, Durham activists toppled a statute of a confederate soldier from in front of the old Durham Courthouse. Eight people were charged in the incident, but those charges were later dropped. Now, a 12-person Durham County committee is taking comments from Durham residents about the future of other confederate monuments in the area, and whether they should remain, or be removed. Charmaine McKissick-Melton, daughter of late civil rights attorney Floyd McKissick, is the co-chairwoman of the committee. She says the committee exists to promote community discussion about the issue. The first priority, however, is to discuss whether the downed statue from last year should be returned to its original space.

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