Tuesday, August 14, 2012
In Cleveland today, Al Sharpton says "This is right now."
Rev. Al Sharpton is in town today with a sharp and sober message for those who are comfort themselves in the perilous notion that civil rights certainly cannot regress under the nation’s first African American president: 2012 is not 2008.
“There is a new landscape”, Sharpton told a luncheon audience at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church. He was referring primarily to two developments that have occurred since people of color turned out in huge numbers in support of Barack Obama in 2008. The Citizens United decision legalizing spending on political advertising that is unregulated, unreported, and unlimited, together with legislative action in as many as 19 states to restrict ballot access are serious threats to an open and fair presidential election this year.
It is possible that “five million voters will lose their right to vote” this year, said Sharpton, citing documented abuses in such states as Florida as well as an analysis offered by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
While he was speaking largely to the choir — the event was sponsored by his National Action Network, and the church’s pastor, E. Theophilus Caviness, is N.A.N.’s local liaison — Sharpton pulled no punches in challenging the legion of Cleveland’s African Americans who work downtown in comfortable office buildings. Addressing the children and grandchildren of the generation that fought for civil rights half a century ago, Sharpton said “you are collecting on a debt you didn’t invest in, you are reaping a harvest you did not plant.” The least they could do, he said, is to “protect what’s been achieved.”
Sharpton argued forcefully and with acerbic wit that the effort to enforce voting restrictions across America is a coordinated attempt to roll back the civil rights gains of the 1960s. He dismissed claims that requiring voters to have government issued photo identification was related to an attempt to curb voter fraud.
In a remark that drew laughter and applause, he said, “the only fraud in voting fraud is the fraud of voting fraud.”
“They are targeting us, not targeting fraud, he said.”
Sharpton questioned how some government leaders could celebrate voting in Egypt while cutting back on voting opportunities in Ohio. He wondered aloud why the Republicans who claim to be so concerned about voter fraud recently went through their entire primary season without requiring any voter i.d. at their caucuses or primary voting sites.
Sharpton said, “We romanticize the civil rights battles of the Sixties and act as if there is no civil rights struggle in Ohio. … This is right now”, he said. “ There is a real threat to the social order established in the 1960s."
After the lunch there were a series of workshops scheduled related to election issues, including the effect of voting upon educational issues and vice versa.
N.A.N. activities continue with a rally tonight at Greater Abyssinia, 1161 East 105 St., beginning at 7PM. Sharpton is scheduled to speak tonight as well.
Today’s lunch was intended for public officials, local clergy, and community leaders, including leaders of many organizations and institutions not generally thought of as politically active, including for example, the Top Ladies of Distinction and all three local chapters of the National Council of Negro Women.
Public officials in attendance included US Senator Sherrod Brown, State Senator Nina Turner, State Representative Sandra Williams, and Cuyahoga County councilman Julian Rogers.