Mississippi House Passes 'Aparteid' Bill To Create Unelected Courts System

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Mississippi's largely white, Republican-controlled House has passed a bill to create a separate court system of unelected leaders and an expanded police force in the state's majority-Black capital city.

On Tuesday (February 7), the House voted in favor of HB 1020, which would allow state officials to appoint judges and prosecutors in Jackson, abandoning the usual practice of electing them, per the Independent.

Republican supporters say the measure will increase public safety and reduce backlogs in court. Local leaders, however, argue that HB 1020 is an attempt by the state's largely conservative, white legislature to wield power over the majority Black population of Jackson.

“Only in Mississippi would we have a bill like this … where we say solving the problem requires removing the vote from Black people,” Rep Ed Blackmon (D) said at the legislature on Tuesday, noting that the bill wouldn't do anything to reduce crime.

"I notice that this bill does not address part of the problem, which is lack of funding at that crime lab. You’re blaming Jackson because they can’t process their cases fast enough because the crime lab is not operating at capacity because we won’t give them the money," Blackmon added.

Last week, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said HB 1020 "reminds me of apartheid."

Rep Trey Lamar (R) defended the bill on Tuesday, citing that it would make the state's capital city safer.

"I don’t know what you’ve heard, I’ll say that, but this bill is designed to help make our capital city of Mississippi a safer city,” Lamar said. “This bill is designed to assist the court system of Hinds County, not to hinder it. It is designed to add to our judicial resources in Hinds County, not to take away. To help, not to hurt.”

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