In the wake of meetings with activists about Black Lives Matter and last week’s first televised Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton is making a point of speaking about racial justice issues in America. She did just that during a campaign stop this weekend in Alabama, as well as in a Birmingham News op-ed, criticizing decisions to close driver’s license registration sites throughout the state.
During her appearance at Saturday’s Alabama Democratic Conference (a predominantly-black Democratic caucus) convention in Hoover, Clinton spoke on the decision to close drivers’ license registration bureaus throughout the state. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and his administration plan to close 31 sites, many in predominantly-African-American counties, as part of a budget balancing measure. Clinton called the controversial measure, which would make it difficult for many black Alabama residents to obtain appropriate voter IDs, a “blast from the Jim Crow past” during her speech. It’s a sentiment echoed in her op-ed the next day:
Governor Bentley is insisting that the closings had nothing to do with race, but the facts tell a different story. Fifty years after Rosa Parks sat, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched, and John Lewis bled, it’s hard to believe Americans are still forced to fight for their right to vote—especially in places where the civil rights movement fought so hard all those years ago. The parallels are inescapable: Alabama is living through a blast from the Jim Crow past.
In her statements, Clinton encouraged Congress to enact the Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bipartisan measure (cosponsored by Representative Terry Swell, D-Birmingham) that would restore the Voting Rights Act’s full protections. She also advocated for nationwide early voting to provide more opportunities to vote.
Clinton’s op-ed focused on voters’ rights, but she also took time during the convention to speak about private prisons and insist on a message not so clearly stated during the Democratic debate, according to an AL.com report:
She also received cheers when she said she wants to end private prisons “that have turned incarceration into a for-profit industry” and racial discrimination ”which plays a big role in the criminal justice system and the prison system.”
“That’s why we need to say very clearly that black lives matter here in America,” Clinton said, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement that begun after police shootings of African Americans across the country.
Governor Bentley responded to Clinton’s remarks on Twitter, saying that there wasn’t a racial component to the closures:
To claim this decision is based on race is absolutely not true.— Gov. Robert Bentley (@GovernorBentley) October 17, 2015
Meanwhile Mrs. Clinton can work to solve our country’s $18 Trillion deficit, in the unfortunate event she is elected President.— Gov. Robert Bentley (@GovernorBentley) October 17, 2015
Read Clinton’s Birmingham News op-ed in full on AL.com, and check out a video of her remarks at the Alabama Democratic Conference’s convention below.