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Mississippi State Legislature Takeover of Jackson Accurately Dubbed ‘Plantation Politics’

The state flag of Mississippi, which incorporates the flag of the Confederate States of America in the top left corner, is displayed with the flags of the other 49 states and territories in the tunnel connecting the senate office building and the U.S. Capitol.

Something is rotten in the state of Mississippi.

Is it the water? Yes, but not in this case. Is it the abortion ban? Also yes, but again, not in this case. The next heinous thing that’s going on in the Magnolia State involves the police—of course, because when has anything involving the police every been good news? The particular branch of law enforcement in question is the Capitol Police, who, should a new bill become law, will have jurisdiction over all of the capitol city of Jackson. To make matters worse, the Mississippi House of Representatives have voted to create a new court system that will include judges appointed by an all-white cadre of state officials. Over 80% of the residents of Jackson are Black.

See the problem?

While the motion still needs to be approved by the Mississippi Senate, a supermajority of white lawmakers in the capitol has agreed to move forward with the bill. Meanwhile, Black legislators are voicing their vehement opposition. The Black Wall Street Times reports that Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has previously called the bill “plantation politics” and went on to say that the proposed legislation “reminds me of apartheid.”

This is far from the mayor’s first criticism of the Mississippi government. Lumumba has previously called out Governor Tate Reeves and the Mississippi legislative body over the collapse of Jackson’s water system, a crisis that is still ongoing. Instead of focusing on restoring clean drinking water to the citizens of Jackson, legislators would rather make harmful changes to its court system and expand police jurisdiction in the city, a decision that will cost $16 million annually. How could this happen? The city is “hopelessly gerrymandered,” and therefore the large majority of legislators are white and Republican.

Mayor Lumumba is not the only person who is pushing back against the bill. Representative Ed Blackmon, a civil rights leader who fights to protect the voting rights of Jackson’s disenfranchised communities, has said the the legislation is no different from Jim Crow laws. “This is just like the 1890 Constitution all over again,” Blackmon said. “We are doing exactly what they said they were doing back then: ‘Helping those people because they can’t govern themselves.’”

The new bill would create an “improvement district” that would cover Jackson’s downtown and entertainment areas. The author of the bill, Republican representative Trey Lamar, has argued for the adoption of this new system due to the area’s “high crime rates.” The move will also funnel more cops into the area, many of whom will be members of the Capitol Police. Lamar alleges that the bill will make Jackson a “safer place.” He lives two hours away from the city.

Since the Capitol Police began their operations in 2022, they have shot and killed four people. One of those people, Jaylen Lewis, died in the aftermath of one of those shootings in October. The Department of Public Safety said that the shooting happened during a traffic stop. As of now, we do not know the identities of the officers involved in the shooting, as the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has refused to release their names.

As more Capitol Police are funneled into the city, arrests are sure to increase, as well. However, it’s likely that the city will struggle to house the increased number of arrestees without help from the State, a fact that the bill conveniently ignores. Hinds county, the county where Jackson is located, already suffers from poor facilities. Detained individuals are often forced to wait months or even years before seeing trial. One such detainee, Brandon Flowers, died in a Mississippi jail after waiting for 18th months for a trial. He was 35 years old.

Democratic Senators such as Sen. John Horhn have proposed that the new bill would be “compounding a problem” that already exists if it passes, Mississippi Free Press reports, but Republicans remain stubborn in their support. They later passed a separate bill that would allow Capitol Police to take an arrestee to “any county jail in Mississippi,” Mississippi Sen. John A. Polk explained. The law only applies to misdemeanors, but is silent on what to do with those charged with a felony. If that all sounds like a disaster to you, it’s because it is.

To make matters worse, Republican lawmakers are pushing a separate bill that would create the Mississippi Capitol Region Utility Act. If the bill becomes law, it will allow regional utility to take over Jackson’s water, sewage, and stormwater systems.

Mississippi House Minority leaders posted a statement on Twitter saying that the pair of bills are an “attempted takeover disguised as concern for our citizens.” They continue to say that the state government intends to blame “local incompetence” after the takeover of the city, and continue to “ignore what resources are needed” while insisting that the bill “isn’t about race”.

“It all leads back to money” the statement concludes. “Money is where it starts and it ends: from money to jobs to assets to property. This is about the devaluation of Black assets and Black people and Black well-being and Black lives.” Democratic hopeful Shuwaski Young similarly condemned the bills, Mississippi Free Press reports, calling them a “stunningly brazen example of big government and systemic racism against the people of Jackson, Mississippi.”

Free Press also reports that House Republicans have defended the bill, with Try Lamar saying, “This bill is designed to assist the court system of Hinds County, not to hinder it. It’s designed to add to our judicial resources in Hinds County, not to take away—to help and not hurt.” Their statement sounds exactly like what House Minority leaders predicted it would be. It’s worded with a series of supposed positives like “add to our resources,” “assist the court system,” “help and not hurt,” yet it seems that the concerns are superficial. Perhaps if they really wanted to help the residents of Jackson, they would listen to what the residents of Jackson had to say.

But that’s hardly what this is about for Mississippi Republicans, is it?

(featured image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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