7 Things: Alabama AG says Huntsville’s tear gas was justified, COVID-19 is still going on, Birmingham shuts down over protests and more …
7. Easing restrictions on Paycheck Protection Program supported by Alabama
- The more relaxed requirements for businesses receiving funds through the Paycheck Protection Program were passed by the U.S. Senate and House this week. Businesses would only be required to spend 60% of funds on payroll, instead of 75%, and they’ll have 24 weeks to spend funds, instead of eight weeks.
- All Alabama representatives in the House and Senate supported this move, and now the legislation awaits President Donald Trump’s signature. So far, the program has saved over 50 million jobs, according to the Trump administration.
6. Remove Jefferson Davis Day?
- In Alabama, Jefferson Davis Day is every year on the first Monday of June, and now Alabama Democratic Party chairman State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) is calling on Governor Kay Ivey to remove the holiday.
- England sent a letter to Ivey asking her to call a special session to add removing the holiday to the agenda. A spokesperson for Ivey’s office said that the governor “is certainly open to sitting down with lawmakers to discuss this proposal.”
5. Walmart is pulling firearms
- Due to protests over George Floyd’s death, Walmart has decided to remove firearms and ammunition from some stores. A spokesperson said that this decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.”
- Walmart hasn’t specified which stores will have guns removed. Firearms and ammunition will still be available for purchase, but they “are being stored in a secure room.”
4. On-campus learning to return for fall semester
- The University of Alabama System, which includes Huntsville, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, has announced that they’ll have students back on campus this summer at a limited capacity, and then full classrooms will be back by the fall semester.
- A resolution released by the system said, “The Board of Trustees believes that the UA System can best fulfill its core mission of teaching, research, and service by resuming on-campus activities in the Fall 2020 semester.” Students are able to go back on campus with limits on June 22; the fall semester will start on August 19 for all campuses.
3. Birmingham closes down ahead of protests
- In preparation for more protests, including rumors of the KKK protesting, a fence was put up around Birmingham’s Linn Park and Kelly Ingram Park, the University of Alabama at Birmingham closed campus early “out of an abundance of caution,” some businesses downtown closed early, and courthouses closed down at noon by order of Jefferson County Presiding Court Judge Elisabeth French.
- The City released a statement that the parks were fenced off “for public safety purposes to ensure unregistered gatherings do not occur.” The roads around Birmingham City Hall were barricaded, but even with this reported, Mayor Randall Woodfin’s Office of Public Information released a statement saying that “the city has not announced a shutdown nor does it plan to announce a shutdown.”
2. The coronavirus pandemic is still a thing
- A popular narrative as things have reopened whenever there are crowds is that there will be a spike in coronavirus cases, and while that is yet to actually happen, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield has said that protests going on across the country could cause a resurgence of cases.
- Redfield spoke before a House Appropriations subcommittee and suggested that those protesting get tested for the coronavirus. He told U.S. Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL) that “there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event.” He went on to say that the CDC is “very concerned that our public health message isn’t resonating.”
1. Mayor and AG defend Huntsville response
- Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has made a public statement about the protest in downtown Huntsville that ended in the use of tear gas, and he explained that “people who were not part of our community” were responsible for the late unpermitted protest. Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner said, “We did the right thing last night.”
- Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall defended the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and force as an appropriate and proportional response, saying, “After an hour and a half of warnings and with daylight dwindling, law enforcement dispersed the crowd with the least amount of force possible and using no lethal weapons. This, despite the fact that the crowd was found to have backpacks full of weapons and spray paint, and which attacked officers with rocks and bottles full of frozen water.”