An incident that occurred in Louisville, Georgia, on October 15 has gone viral and contributed to a long-standing debate, BuzzFeed News is reporting. On Monday, a bus provided by the nonprofit organization the Black Voters Matter Fund stopped in Jefferson County for dozens of elderly black citizens to step aboard. The bus was intending to take them to vote, as many factors were preventing them from traveling to a polling station themselves. Then, before the bus could leave, they were immediately told to get off.
The reason? The bus was technically considered “county-sponsored” as it came from a county-sponsored senior center. “Political activities” are not allowed at county-sponsored events. Since a member of the Jefferson County Democratic Party helped organize the event, County Administrator Adam Brett deemed it a political activity and, thus, inappropriate.
“Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” Brett said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “No seniors at the Jefferson County senior center were denied their right to vote.”
Others, however, feel that the decision is not as cut-and-dry as Brett is making it out to be, and there were perhaps some ulterior motives behind the decision to pull the plug on the event. According to LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter fund, a complaint was made to county officials, which then led to county officials contacting the senior center, which prompted the director of the center to request that the group leave the bus. The other co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, Cliff Albright, believes bias and racism played a part in the initial complaint.
Yesterday, we experienced voter suppression in Louisville, Georgia.
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. Share this to spread the word! pic.twitter.com/fvULloAz4J
— Black Voters Matter (@BlackVotersMtr) October 17, 2018
“Somebody called the county commission to complain because they saw all these black folks get on this big black bus. It’s the blackest bus in America,” he explained in a video detailing the situation for ThinkProgress. Albright went on to say that the seniors were having a fun time waiting on the bus, which was decorated with “The South Is Rising Tour” in big letters, accompanied by images of black people holding their fists in the air. The group was dancing, clapping, and chanting “black votes matter.”
“Somebody drove past that, got feverous, got mad, and called the county commissioner’s office, which then called the [senior] center,” Albright said.
In Jefferson County, there are around 15,000 residents. Fifty-two percent of the population is black. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, has made fighting against voter suppression a focus of her platform. She recently referred to her Republican opposition, Brian Kemp, an “aggressive voter suppressor” and accused him and his office of preventing 53,000 citizens — most of whom are black — from voting.