A group of black senior citizens weren’t allowed to take a bus to their polling station
Dozens of black senior citizens set out to vote in Louisville, Georgia this week. The mood was joyous as they gathered together, with lots of grooving, clapping, and chanting: “black votes matter.” Then, just as they got on the bus to head to their polling station, they were told that they had to get off. Apparently, somebody spotted the group of seniors and called the county commission to complain.
Yup, welcome to 2018.
Black Voters Matter, an organization dedicated to expanding voting engagement within the black community, helped organize the seniors’ transportation to the polls. The whole group settled into their bus, which featured an image of black people holding their fists in solidarity, along with the words “The South Is Rising Tour” and “Black Votes Matter.”
According to LaTosha Brown, the cofounder of Black Voters Matter Fund, somebody called county officials to file a complaint about the event (and, just to be clear, the event was literally just seniors on a bus, headed to the polls).
“[They] complain[ed] because they saw all these black folks get on this big black bus,” Cliff Albright, Black Voters Matter Fund’s co-founder, said in a video posted to Facebook. “It’s the blackest bus in America.”
County Administrator Adam Brett told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the bus trip was considered a “political activity,” which isn’t allowed for county-sponsored events. While the Black Voters Matter Fund is a nonpartisan group, the bus trip was co-organized by Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans.
“Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” Brett said. “No seniors at the Jefferson County senior center were denied their right to vote.”
The Black Voters Matter Fund had a much different take on the situation – namely that a private citizen and county officials were going out of their way to make it as difficult as possible for blacks to vote.
“Voter suppression is real, y’all and it happened to us today in Louisville, Georgia in Jefferson County,” the group wrote. “We had a whole busload of beautiful black elders ready to go vote when the county commissioner shut us down and made our elders get off the bus without having the chance to vote. This is voter suppression pure and simple.”
Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she helped organize the event as a community leader and the bus ride didn’t have any political implications.
“It was discouraging that they weren’t able to vote,” she said. “When they’re suppressing votes, they’re going to come up with any kind of excuse about what your problem is.”
Meanwhile, this frustrating bump in the road is not going to stop the seniors from voting. If anything, it made them even more motivated.
“These elders have been through this time and time again so today was fuel to our fire!” Black Voters Matter concluded in their Facebook post. “Instead of bring five family members and friends, they’re gonna bring twenty! Can’t stop, won’t stop. When we work together, we win.”