Tag: Best of BirminghamWatch 2021

A Lack of Hate or Lack of Reporting?: Alabama Has Reported Zero Hate Crimes in the Past Two Years

On April 9, 2020, the Etz Chayim Synagogue in Huntsville was defaced with antisemitic graffiti. The following day, the Chabad of Huntsville was vandalized with similar hate speech. Security footage taken from both scenes indicates the same perpetrator committed both crimes. Given that they took place on the first night of the Jewish holiday Passover, the crimes are thought to be meticulously planned and executed with one purpose: to send a message of hate to the Jewish community.

Mayor Tommy Battle released a statement to the public saying “the city of Huntsville condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms” and emphasized Huntsville as a city of inclusivity and acceptance. “Any offense against one is an offense against all,” Battle said.

The case has since been handed over to the FBI, and no perpetrator has been caught.

Despite these attacks against the Jewish community the state of Alabama has reported zero hate crimes to the FBI’s annual Unified Crime Report for the past two years in a row. It is the only state in the country that has reported zero hate crimes. 

“It is highly implausible that in 2019 or 2018, no hate crimes were committed in Alabama. Of the over 417 law enforcement agencies in the state, only two actually participated in the 2019 reporting process to the FBI, which is deeply troubling and undoubtedly means that many hate crimes have gone unreported,” said Dr. Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southern Division. Read more.

March 11, 2020: The Day COVID-19 Became Real for America, and What’s Happened Since

The first time the world found out about the coronavirus now known as COVID-19 was through an announcement of the first case in the Wuhan province of China on the last day of 2019.

That was the start of the virus that has now spread around the world. But COVID-19 didn’t really hit home for Americans until March 11, 2020 — a day that changed the country.

One year ago Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the fast-spreading outbreak to be a pandemic. Before then, there were more cases in Europe than China, with Italy hardest hit. That soon changed.

The WHO announcement didn’t make many waves in the United States that morning. But later that evening, it was the sports world that gave Americans their first glimpse of how everyone’s world was about to turn upside down.

Viewers on ESPN saw history unfold at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, where three referees from the National Basketball Association were in an intense courtside conversation with Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and his Oklahoma City Thunder counterpart, Billy Donovan. Minutes before their teams were scheduled to play, Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a nearly instantaneous decision to shut the entire league down, sending fans in Oklahoma City home with scant explanation.

Other leagues quickly followed suit. The National Hockey League suspended play the next day, Major League Baseball canceled the start of spring training, Major League Soccer halted its 2021 season two weeks after it began. The PGA Tour halted the Players Championship golf tournament after one round of play, and NASCAR called off its weekend of racing at Atlanta. College sports were also stopped, with the NCAA men’s and women’s national basketball championships eventually canceled and all spring sports wiped out entirely.

The shutdowns marked the beginning of a series of events that changed virtually every facet of American life. In the days to come, schools of all levels were closed while administrators figured out what to do next. Churches moved their weekend services to livestreaming video before empty sanctuaries or canceled the services altogether; participation plummeted in the weeks to come.

Governments put severe limitations on business operations, especially retailers and hospitality industries. Restaurants, in particular, suddenly saw customers banned from their dining rooms, forcing some to close — sometimes permanently. Food and grocery delivery became the norm, with companies such as DoorDash and GrubHub thriving while other businesses were in peril. Read more.

‘For everything there is a season’: Richard Shelby Declines Senate Reelection Run in 2022

Sen. Richard Shelby, who has represented Alabama in the United States Congress since 1979 and in the Senate since 1987, has decided that his sixth and current term will be his last.

Shelby made the announcement on the Senate floor Monday, and also released it through his official Senate website. It was a call that many political observers in Alabama had expected when the Democrats took the majority after winning Georgia’s two Senate seats in runoff elections early in January.

“For everything there is a season,” Shelby said to begin his speech.
Read more.

Lady Justice Is Not Wearing a Blindfold

In 1996, Jerald Sanders, a Black man and resident of Alabama, used his pocket knife to tear a hole in a front porch screen so he could steal a bicycle stored inside.

When apprehended a few weeks later, Sanders was charged with burglary in the first degree, a Class C felony.

Because Sanders had multiple prior offenses on his record, his sentence was pushed to life in prison without parole. A Class C felony often results in a fine or minimal jail time.

Sanders’ story is not rare. Black men are sentenced to prison time that reflects not only the crime for which they are being sentenced, but for their entire criminal history. According to statistics from the Sentencing Project, Blacks are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. Read more.

Alabama is Home to 20 Hate Groups, 838 Operate Nationwide, SPLC Says

The Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual list of hate groups nationwide Feb. 1, and while the number of groups has gone down from last year, there are still 20 Alabama groups that made the cut. Altogether, the SPLC tracked 830 organizations defined as hate groups in 2020. “The number is a barometer, albeit only one, of the level of hate activity in the country,” the website says. Read more.