By Monique Jones
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham has long served as ground zero for the fight for human rights, dating back to the civil rights era. Recent protests are a reminder of the city’s long history of civil disobedience, organizing, demonstrations, and martyrdom. Here are some recent demonstrations in the Magic City.
May 2, 2016. The YWCA held a rally in Linn Park aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence.
“In six weeks, at least six people, including two unborn babies, were killed as a result of a senseless crime,” said Yolanda Sullivan, Central Alabama YWCA chief executive officer. “Enough is enough.”
“We’re in mourning,” said Suzanne Durham, former YWCA CEO. “The YWCA wants to make sure people are aware of the resources, but [the rally also is] a call-out about domestic violence.”
Lakeisha Harris, who lost her 18-year-old daughter, Nakía, to domestic violence, said, “If you feel scared or threatened to get out, there are people [and places, like the YWCA, that can help you get out of those situations]. Someone is always willing to help you. Don’t be afraid to speak out. Speak out before it’s too late.”
June 13, 2016. Central Alabama Pride held a remembrance and candlelight vigil for the 49 killed and 53 wounded in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.
The names of those slain were read aloud on the Jefferson County Courthouse steps, and a rainbow banner was draped across the entrance of Birmingham City Hall. Many of those killed were people of color, prompting some to discuss the treatment of minorities in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.
Stephanie Patterson, of Montgomery, said that there is a racial divide within the community: “We can’t seem to understand … why there is still black-and-white discrimination in the gay community.”
July 8, 2016. The Black Lives Matter Birmingham chapter brought attention to the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., through a solidarity protest in Kelly Ingram Park and subsequent march to the Birmingham Police headquarters. The rally and march also paid respect to five white officers in Dallas who were killed by sniper fire.
“I would be hurt if my son feared [the police],” said Jason Henry, 32, who lives in McCalla. “My wife and I don’t teach our children to fear them, but there hasn’t been a generation of black people in this country that didn’t have to grow up with some type of fear of authority.”
Nov. 12, 2016. Days after the election of Donald Trump, a rally was held in Kelly Ingram Park to spotlight the then-president-elect’s stance on several issues, including women’s rights, reproductive health, the Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare), and Islamophobia. Protesters like 19-year-old Storm Martin said the election made them unwelcome.
“It hurts because you wake up and fall asleep in a country that hates you, and you can’t do anything about it,” she said. “… Racist, white America got him into office, so if he does a terrible job, they have no one to blame but themselves.”
Jan. 21, 2017. Thousands of protesters from across Alabama marched from Kelly Ingram Park through downtown Birmingham in solidarity with the national Women’s March on Washington.
Like the Washington, D.C., march and other sister marches around the country and the world, Birmingham’s march was directed at the Trump administration and the president’s comments about women and minorities.
“I’m worried on behalf of the country,” said Corey Craft, an English and film studies teacher at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. “… This is really the only way to show that [and] to start on the long road ahead … to defend all the progress that we’ve made in the last couple of decades, [which] seems in danger of going away now.”
Jan. 29, 2017. Scores of protesters gathered at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport to oppose President Trump’s immigration ban, which prohibited entrance of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
“We just want the Trump administration to know that millions of people all across this country will stand in solidarity against anything unlawful and not right for this country,” said Carlos Chaverst, a member of the Birmingham chapter of the National Action Network, during the rally. “We will stand up against Trump’s hateful bigotry [and] rhetoric. We will not tolerate that.”
“America is a land that is, really, not owned by anybody but the indigenous people,” said Outcast Voters League founder Frank Matthews, adding that the immigration ban goes against America’s founding principles of freedom of religion, the right to protest, and freedom of speech.