Rallying for Jobs and Justice
Elected officials and activists angry about the crackdown on electronic bingo in the state have organized a Saturday rally with notable entertainment to register people to vote and encourage them to be active in the November election.
Musicians John Anderson and The Commodores will highlight a Saturday rally that is intended to draw people to the State House and Capitol to register them to vote.
Democratic state Sens. Quinton Ross of Montgomery and Bobby Singleton of Greensboro were among those who offered for people to come to Montgomery on Saturday for the free entertainment.
They are part of the 2010 Campaign for Jobs and Justice Committee.
The event begins at 3 p.m. behind the State Judicial Building on Washington Avenue and ends at the State House at Union Street. The participants will march from the judicial building, where the Alabama Supreme Court meets, to the State House, where lawmakers have been unable in recent years to pass legislation related to gaming.
The organizers are critical of Gov. Bob Riley and the Alabama Supreme Court.
Riley believes, with the supreme court siding with him on most major issues, that the machines used to play electronic bingo are slot machines that are illegal in the state and formed his Task Force on Illegal Gambling to shut down the non-Indian gaming facilities in the state, which are under federal control.
The task force raided Greenetrack in west Alabama and the White Hall Entertainment Center in Lowndes County.
Operators of VictoryLand in Shorter and Country Crossing near Dothan shut down because of the threat of a raid.
Riley has said he is enforcing the law.
Operators and employees at those facilities and many Democratic lawmakers have accused Riley of killing thousands of jobs in a slow economy.
"It's clear that casino operators are attempting to sign up as many Democrats as they can to go out and vote in November," said Todd Stacy, press secretary for Riley. "They're hoping that if they can just get more Democrats elected, maybe the Legislature will finally legalize their casino empire so they can make millions off the backs of Alabamians."
Stacy said the evidence that casinos are a drain on local and state economies is irrefutable.
"They squeeze money out of communities and send it to out-of-state gambling bosses," he said. "Places that have legalized casino gambling have paid a high price. They've paid an economic price, losing jobs and exporting billions of dollars from local economies. They've paid a social price, seeing crime rates skyrocket. They've paid a political price, too, as powerful organized gambling bosses have taken a stranglehold on governments. Governor Riley doesn't want to see any of that happen in Alabama."
Val Goodson, chairperson of the Campaign for Jobs and Justice and an out-of-work employee from Greenetrack, said raids have forced thousands of hard-working people out of jobs they had for years.
Goodson, Singleton and Ross believe that Riley and his task force have stomped on the rights of voters, particularly in Macon and Greene counties, that approved local constitutional amendments to allow bingo.
"We have been forced to fight to the ballot box," Goodson said.
Riley and his attorneys argue, and the state's high court has ruled, that those amendments allow the "ordinary game of bingo" -- not slots.
Along with encouraging people to register to vote, Goodson said there are 400,000 people who voted in the 2008 presidential election that have yet to return to the polls. She hopes for record voter turnout in November.
Those at the Thursday press conference at the State House announcing the rally said they were not there to support any particular candidate.
When asked who was paying for the rally and how much it cost, Singleton and Goodson said they did not know.
Singleton said those involved in organizing include the Alabama Democratic Conference, the Alabama New South Coalition, the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, and displaced workers from those facilities.
The senator, who was willingly arrested during the raid of Greenetrack, said the purpose is to register voters and not to raise funds to try to elect candidates who support their cause.
"It's not a Democratic or Republican issue," said Pam Breedlove of Elmore County, one of the committee members who declined to give more information about her role or occupation.
She said she was fighting for jobs.
Goodson, who lives in Tuscloosa and was employed at Greenetrack since 2000, said finding work has been difficult. She said she is substitute teaching and playing piano at church.
Goodson said the closure was a "rude awakening" and said she was denied when she filed for unemployment.
Goodson said there is also free transportation for people throughout the state, from Mobile to Madison County. She said people can call 866-877-4077 for a ride or for more information. The campaign also has a Website, a page on Facebook and a Twitter account.
The Website is www.campaignforjobsandjustice.org.
-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen