This week six youth activists were arrested in Atlanta, GA, for acts of civil disobedience.
The protest was the second of its kind this year in Atlanta, following a similar action on Georgia State University’s campus back in April. These activists have aimed to take a stand against HB 87, Georgia’s own anti-immigrant law which is modeled after Arizona’s draconian SB 1070. Once, Arizona stood relatively alone in attempting to pass racially charged legislation, but over the past few months that state’s been joined by the likes of Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, South Carolina, and others.
These stories of resistance to bigotry smack of other periods our nation’s history, times when oppressed Americans fought for and won their basic rights. On July 2, 2011, for example, we’ll celebrate the forty-seventh anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That Act was a monumental victory for the Civil Rights movement. The fight to pass this kind of vital legislation was arduous, and many of the bigots that were opposing such measures back then closely resemble those fighting against basic human rights today.
As an example, the “Southern Bloc” of eighteen Senators, which was led by Richard Russel (D-GA), launched a filibuster to prevent the 1964 Act’s passage. Russel stated:
“We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states.”
Not one to be out boasted, infamous Southern Democrat Strom Thurmond of South Carolina stated:
“This so-called Civil Rights Proposals, which the President has sent to Capitol Hill for enactment into law, are unconstitutional, unnecessary, unwise and extend beyond the realm of reason.”
Regardless of their senseless filibuster and subsequent “no” votes, the Civil Rights Act passed by a 71-29 vote, and was signed into law by President Johnson on July 2. Laws like HB 87 and SB 1070 infringe upon everyone, they hurt the lifeblood of our economy, and they deeply isolate and even disenfranchise immigrant communities across the US.
Undocumented peoples only want what so many of us want: to work in this country, to own a home, to send their children to college. “It is time for undocumented youth across the South to come out and fight against injustice,” said Dulce Guerrero, one of the students participating in the action. “My dreams and my family are under attack.”
On July 1, when HB 87 goes into effect, there will be a day of non-compliance when all supporters of human rights will be asked not to go to work or buy anything. Following on July 2, there will be a mass rally against the passage of the bill. Organizing such demonstrations against HB 87 are groups like the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Southerners on New Ground (SONG), and Somos Georgia.
Solidarity actions will also be held across the nation in cities like Austin, Denver, Tucson, San Francisco, and Elizabeth, NJ, and elsewhere. These students need our support; let’s show them they’re not alone, that this is 2011, not 1950.
Hopefully, these actions will lead others to see that Jim Crow lives and breathes through Georgia’s HB 87 and through all of these bigoted laws.