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March 3, 2014 0

The Arizona Effect

Josh Deinert

AP Photo/Matt York

Last week Ari­zona Gov­er­nor Jan Brewer vetoed the State’s now infa­mous “reli­gious free­dom” bill. 

The clear intent of the SB 1062 was to effec­tively allow per­sons and busi­nesses to dis­crim­i­nate against the State’s LGBT com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing a pow­er­ful legal defense based on asser­tion of a “sin­cerely held reli­gious belief.” 

Due to its expan­sive nature, how­ever, the leg­is­la­tion would have broadly sanc­tioned religious-based dis­crim­i­na­tion whether the vic­tim was Jew­ish, Mus­lim, Protes­tant, Catholic, Mor­mon, Hindu or of no faith.   And the Anti-Defamation took a lead­er­ship role in defeat­ing this dis­crim­i­na­tory legislation.

Gov­er­nor Brewer ulti­mately vetoed SB 1062 under fierce pres­sure from the State’s civil rights and busi­ness communities.

But what hap­pens in Ari­zona does not stay in Ari­zona.  Prior to Gov­er­nor Brewer’s veto, at least twelve other states, includ­ing Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio and Okla­homa, were actively con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.  Due to the back­lash against SB 1062, how­ever, Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio, and Okla­homa tabled their bills.  So the new talk­ing point in oppos­ing such leg­is­la­tion should be “fol­low the lead of the Ari­zona leg­is­la­ture at your peril.”

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August 29, 2013 6

Georgia Police Chief Accepts Award From Racists At Anti-Immigrant Rally

uvalda-police-award-michael-hell-lewis-smith

Michael Hill hands award to Police Chief Lewis Smith in Uvalda

A Geor­gia police chief accepted an award from racists and anti-immigrant extrem­ists at an anti-immigrant protest.

Michael Hill, the pres­i­dent of the League of the South (LOS), an implic­itly racist neo-Confederate group, gave Police Chief Lewis Smith, chief of police of Uvalda, a small town in Geor­gia, the LOS’s “Robert E. Lee Award.” Hill report­edly gave Smith the award because of the chief’s sup­port of the rally and as “a small token of [their] appreciation.”

Hill, who has become increas­ingly rad­i­cal, was one of a num­ber of racist speak­ers at the rally. Other speak­ers at the event included lead­ers in LOS and Michael Cush­man, who heads the South­ern Nation­al­ist Net­work (SNN). Atten­dees, who included white suprema­cists Brad Grif­fin (also known as Hunter Wal­lace) and Kyle Rogers of the Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens, were also protest­ing Uvalda Mayor Paul Bridges’ sup­port of a law­suit against Georgia’s harsh immi­gra­tion laws. 

Despite the fact that the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter informed Chief Smith of the pro­test­ers’ extrem­ism, Smith not only par­tic­i­pated in the event, he brought refresh­ments for the protesters.

In an effort to play down their extrem­ism, par­tic­i­pants at the protest did not openly dis­play white suprema­cist sym­bols or even the Con­fed­er­ate flag. They held up a flag from the SNN, a Geor­gia seces­sion flag, as well as an LOS ban­ner. Most of the par­tic­i­pants also fol­lowed a dress code of slacks and shirts, as requested in the event’s announce­ment on the LOS Face­book page.

Speak­ers at the event, how­ever, expressed racist, anti-immigrant views. Cush­man claimed that immi­gra­tion was “an inva­sion of our coun­try” and argued that it was “immoral” to replace “a unique peo­ple,” mean­ing South­ern whites, with immi­grants. Hill asserted that “demo­graph­ics is des­tiny” and argued, “This is our land. We set­tled it. We built it. And we own it. It’s ours.”

In addi­tion, par­tic­i­pants held hand­made signs that read, “Mayor Bridges wants to replace us,” and “It’s wrong to replace us.” After the rally in Uvalda, the par­tic­i­pants con­tin­ued their protest in nearby Vidalia.

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August 14, 2013 11

Georgia Police Chief To Join Extremists At Anti-Immigration Protest

Lewis Smith, the chief of police of Uvalda, a small town in the state of Geor­gia (pop­u­la­tion around 600), has announced his inten­tion to join an anti-immigration protest orga­nized by white suprema­cists and neo-Confederate groups. 

michael-cushman-racist

Michael Cush­man

Smith indi­cated he planned to attend the event, sched­uled for August 24 in Uvalda, on the Face­book page of the League of the South (LOS). LOS is an implic­itly racist group that seeks to cre­ate a South pred­i­cated on “Anglo-Celtic” cul­tural dom­i­nance.  The orig­i­nal Face­book post­ing (which has since been mod­i­fied) stated that the orga­niz­ers of the event were Hunter Wal­lace (whose real name is Brad Grif­fin), a white suprema­cist who runs “Occi­den­tal Dis­sent” and Michael Cush­man, who runs “South­ern Nation­al­ist Net­work.” “Occi­den­tal Dis­sent” is a racist blog that focuses on the South and “South­ern Nation­al­ist Net­work” is a neo-Confederate blog that focuses on “South­ern identity.”

Oth­ers announc­ing they would attend the event include Matthew Heim­bach, a white suprema­cist leader with the Tra­di­tion­al­ist Youth Net­work, and Kyle Rogers, a key player in the white suprema­cist Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens. Michael Hill, the pres­i­dent of the League of the South, will also attend the event, along with other LOS mem­bers. The protest will pur­port­edly focus on the claim that “immi­gra­tion is destroy­ing our South­ern Culture.”

Immi­gra­tion has recently played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the pol­i­tics of tiny Uvalda. The mayor, Paul Bridges, has been very vocal in his oppo­si­tion to HB87, Georgia’s harsh anti-immigration law passed in 2011. Bridges joined a 2011 law­suit chal­leng­ing the law, filed by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and the South­ern Poverty Law Center.

Since 2011, Bridges and Smith have been involved in a series of dis­putes. Some of the dis­agree­ments between the two seem to have stemmed from issues related to immi­grants liv­ing in the town.

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