(Article changed on February 28, 2013 at 10:24)
(Article changed on February 28, 2013 at 08:11)
"stripes and stars" by Marta Steele
Hundreds of demonstrators showed up early this morning in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building to participate in a rally protesting the likely Supreme Court decision to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Sponsored by some sixty-two civil rights organizations, including NAACP, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law, SEIU, the League of Women Voters, and Rainbow Push, the all-day event began with a Congressional press conference from 8:30 to 9 that included Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and civil rights icon John Lewis (D-GA), who were among those who attending the historic hearing.
Section 5 of the VRA requires preclearance from a federal court or the U.S. Department of Justice for new election laws in all or parts of 16 states with a history of minority voter suppression . Many of those covered states are in the South , as the VRA was initially passed in 1965 as a response to Jim Crow era suppression, and as part of the Congressional mandate of the 15 th Amendment, ratified 95 years earlier in 1870, to "enforce [the amendment] by appropriate legislation."
The majority of participants in yesterday's rally were African Americans, along with Latinos, Asian Americans, LGBTQs, and whites. Many had traveled from as far away as the deep South, including Mississippi and Alabama, said by one speaker to be the two states that had delivered the fewest votes for Obama in 2012 [fewest, with such large black populations?].
The rally itself, hosted by Joe Madison of Sirius XM Radio, lasted from 9am well into
the early afternoon . A post- hearing conference call with NAACP , LDF, ACLU, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law was followed by a bus trip to Richmond by the Freedom Riders for Voting Rights, who had come all the way from Selma, Alabama, part of Shelby County, the now-infamous plaintiff in the case argued today, Shelby County v Holder.
A " post-argument analysis blog with legal experts and Alliance for Justice " will be held at 5:30 this afternoon at http://afijjusticewatch.blogspot.com/search/label/VRAanalysis .
After three hours of speeches (more on these below), activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, who had attended the SCOTUS hearing as well , emerged with their reports: the " ladies " (Sotomayor, Ginsberg, and Kagan) fought like hell , they reported , while one of the plaintiff attorneys argued that Shelby County should not be subject to Section 5 of the VRA because other municipalities have records " just as bad or worse ," Sharpton told the spirited crowd.
[An oft -quoted argument has been that Section 5 is no longer needed because of Obama's two consecutive victories; other speakers referred to this monumental event as a stepping stone in a long process rather than achievement of " the dream " itself, in a national climate that remains hugely discriminatory .]
Sharpton continued that Sotomayor, Ginsberg, and Kagan questioned why no statewide officials in Alabama, the " Heart of Dixie state " were black, with a population that was one-quarter African-American. In response, the proponents in the Shelby case noted during the hearing that, the state had indeed elected blacks to state office, if not state wide office, in a proportion reflective of the population over all .
Justice Scalia offered his brainstorm, calling Section 5 " racial entitlement ." But even worse, continued Sharpton, he " loses his soul " when he sees Clarence (" er, Justice Thomas ," he quickly added).
Sharpton offered no conclusive predictions on the final outcome of the case, to be published this summer, suggesting he couldn't predict in which direction the almost certain 5-4 decision would fall either way. Justice Kennedy is believed to be the lone swing vote in the case .
And if Section 5 is struck down, Sharpton continued, "we'll go back to the streets ," the way we first got the VRA. Our forebears suffered and died -- we won't lose that , he said .