The timing and location of a police checkpoint near Mississippi’s largest polling place – which just so happens to be in its majority-Black capital city – could be the result of “voter intimidation” and suppression tactics, the local NAACP chapter warned one day before voters went to cast ballots in statewide elections that will choose the next governor and other key political seats.
The state Capitol police on Monday set up the checkpoint right “next to” Jackson State University, WAPT reported. Jackson State, a historically Black college, also doubles as the state’s largest voting precinct in a city that Census data shows has a population of nearly 83% Black people.
The checkpoint included multiple police vehicles employing “roadblocks,” according to NAACP Jackson President Nsombi Lambright. He called it “a very suspicious form of voter intimidation” and said it prompts “a lot of questions about what the purpose of this checkpoint today was.”
State NAACP Executive Director Charles Taylor said officers at the checkpoint “were checking both license plates and licenses of individuals passing by right next to the largest voting precinct in the state of Mississippi.”
The national NAACP organization suggested the checkpoint wasn’t “an accident” and cited Mississippi’s history of racist voter intimidation as a historical precedent.
“If our vote wasn’t a threat they wouldn’t try so hard to suppress it,” the NAACP said.
Local law enforcement officials denied claims of voter intimidation and the Mississippi secretary of state implied that police conducted the checkpoint as part of an enhanced security plan following two shootings on Jackson State’s campus last month during homecoming festivities.
“The (JSU) Department of Public Safety has many agency partners that help us keep the campus community safe. While we can appreciate these efforts, we did not request the specific implementation of a checkpoint (Monday),” JSU Department of Public Safety Chief Herman Horton said. “As a result, we will continue to encourage collaboration and dialogue to ensure our actions are aligned and maintain the public’s trust and the integrity of our public safety department.”
The alleged voter intimidation in Jackson came one day after an Associated Press report indicated that despite Mississippi’s rich history of racist voter suppression, Black voters in the state have seen signs of change and have been willing to “reengage” after previous “voter fatigue” from elections that haven’t produced the desired effects for the powerful voting bloc.
That report was published weeks after Mississippi Republicans were accused of employing racist fearmongering – a form of voter suppression and intimidation – particularly for the gubernatorial race between incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves and Democrat Brandon Presley.
In that instance, a mailer supporting Tate denounced the “Biden-Presley agenda,” but it was the imagery that dog-whistled the loudest.
The mailer was posted to the social media app formerly known as Twitter by Mississippi Free Press journalist Ashton Pittman, who noted that it indicated that the “‘Biden-Presley Agenda’ is a Black woman holding a room of mostly white kids hostage with masks & increasing crime” – a nod to the mailer including a photo of Stacey Abrams in a room full of white children in face masks with no additional context but a caption that reads, “Indoctrination In Schools And Sports.”
The image also includes a message that reads, “We all know what Democratic leadership has meant to the American people—rising crime, higher taxes, failing education, high inflation, wide-open borders, a highjacking of our culture, and erosion of personal freedoms.”
Pittman went on to note examples of how “scaring white people by associating candidates like Brandon Presley with Black leaders is an old tactic.”
Pittman also noted Reeves’ own history of frightening his constituents by associating his opponents with the Black, brown and Muslim congresswomen of “the squad,” as well as liberal Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
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