2 years ago

UNA considering dropping ‘Pride of Dixie’ band name, cites ‘reputation as a progressive institution’

Seven days after hosting prominent Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King for a speech on campus, the University of North Alabama (UNA) announced on Thursday that they are considering changing the school band’s nickname – “Pride of Dixie.”

The name has been in use for over half a century, but now UNA has felt the need to impanel an official 19-member “study group” which includes faculty, staff, students and alumni who will examine, as they call it, “the issues surrounding the nickname.” This group will then offer a recommendation on keeping the nickname or banning its use.

“UNA has a reputation as a progressive institution, with a long history of successfully using collaborative leadership to address difficult social and cultural issues,” Dr. Ross Alexander, UNA vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost, said in a press release.

“The University is proud of its musical heritage and the musical heritage of the Shoals—both of which are built around values of inclusion and respect,” he added.This comes the week following UNA’s football game against Alabama A&M, a historically black university, when UNA Director of Bands Dr. Lloyd Jones intentionally omitted reference to “Dixie” in his introduction of the band “out of respect for A&M’s mission and campus history.”

UNA’s student newspaper, The Flor-Ala, reported that the marching band also covered the “D” on their “POD” uniforms for the game against A&M.

(Screenshot/The Flor-Ala)

The Flor-Ala also published an article about King’s recent speech, in which the Black Lives Matter leader said we are in “a dip” in world history, adding, “Sometimes humans are awful.”

“This has been the deadliest year for police brutality and has the highest number of hate crimes,” King said. “Most people assume they will get out of the dip in their lifetime. But most times it takes hundreds of years.”

He advised that slavery and the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and Barack Obama’s presidency caused dips in the nation’s past.

“Trump is not the cause of our current dip,” King said. “But he causes us to stay in it.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Byrne: A more perfect union

I was a young teenager in the late 1960s, but I remember the riots and violence that occurred around the country, and especially in the large cities. I was concerned that we were headed down that road again with racial violence around the country in the summer of 2016, President Obama’s last year in office. Over the previous several years we had become an extremely divided country, a clear failure of our national leaders. That seemed ironic inasmuch as President Obama’s election eight years earlier was supposed to have ushered in a new golden era of unity and prosperity.

This past week, as the nation continued to reopen from the extreme social distancing suddenly thrown on us in the early spring, an ugly incident in Minneapolis involving a white law enforcement officer arresting a black man ended with yet another death, and now a criminal case against the officer. The response has been arson, looting, and violence in many cities around the nation. Unfortunately, we had similar incidents in Birmingham and, to a lesser extent, Mobile.

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Despair is a strong human emotion and triggers extreme behavior, which all too often results in the destruction of private property owned by people who had nothing to do with the event at issue, and in personal injury or even death to innocent parties. We saw all that last week as well as reports that some groups helped instigate the violence.

The violence detracted from the message the vast majority of the protesters tried to deliver peacefully. They have rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution to peacefully assemble, speak out publicly, and petition their government. No one has a right to commit arson, loot, or engage in violence, and those that did hurt the efforts of those who were peaceful.

Our country has had a tough year. We began with a failed impeachment trial in the Senate and flawed Democrat presidential caucuses, but also with some of the best economic numbers in over 50 years. Indeed, they were the best ever for black Americans who were enjoying record low unemployment and rising wages. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and our leaders, on advice from public health officials, ordered extreme social distancing, which shut down significant parts of our economy. That cost 40 million Americans their jobs, including 500,000 in Alabama and over 70,000 in my congressional district. The negative effect on our economy has been record breaking and so very sudden. The jobs and incomes of black people have been particularly hard hit. Of course that affected people emotionally.

Many people are fearful of COVID and some of us should be, particularly if we are elderly or have a CDC-listed underlying health condition. Black people in Alabama have suffered disproportionately to their share of the population. While only 27% of the Alabama population is black, 44% of all Alabama COVID deaths have been among black people. We should all understand the fear that causes.

Yes, we need to continue to work with law enforcement so that they can continue doing the dangerous job of protecting us in a way that’s safer for everyone. The vast majority of law enforcement play by the rules and respect people, and I want to compliment Chief Battiste and the Mobile Police Department for their professionalism during the Mobile protests. But there is no room for anyone in law enforcement to overstep appropriate processes and procedures. One atrocity is one too many.

This past weekend, the national news media was almost totally focused on this violence around the country. Lost in all their coverage was the thrilling launch of a pair of astronauts on a U.S. rocket for the first time in nine years, which successfully took them to the International Space Station. I will never forget Apollo 8’s 1968 Christmas Eve telecast, the first from lunar orbit, when the astronauts read from Genesis, and Apollo 11’s July 1969 landing on the moon’s surface. Widely broadcast by the media and watched by record numbers, the space program was a source of great pride and unity at a time when we really needed it.

Back then, the national media actually believed that their mission included telling us the good things about our country, while reporting on the not so good things, like inequality and riots. In our present time, the national media acts as if its main role is to fan discontent and disunity.

Racial issues and violence weren’t the only negative stories from the late 1960s. The world faced a severe pandemic from H3N2 flu, which killed 100,000 Americans in 1968 and 1969. We were a smaller country then, so that would be like losing 140,000 Americans now. We didn’t shut our country down and the news media didn’t obsess over it. We dealt with it even as we struggled with inequality and put humans on the moon.

We’re capable of so much more in this country but only if we remember that one of the stated purposes of our Constitution is “to create a more perfect union.” That’s not a one and done thing, it’s a generation after generation thing. This generation must do its part by unifying to solve our problems while celebrating our many achievements.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

1 hour ago

Tensions simmer at peaceful protest in front of Alabama State Capitol

MONTGOMERY — Around 300 protesters peacefully assembled one block down from the State Capitol building on Monday night to hold a protest against police misconduct in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis Police custody last week.

Demonstrators began assembling shortly after 8:00 p.m., and though tensions sometimes flared verbally, no physical altercations or property damage occurred.

At the end of the night, one young woman who refused to leave the scene of the protest after the city’s COVID-19 imposed 10:00 p.m. curfew was arrested by the Montgomery Police Department.

She was the only demonstrator arrested in downtown Montgomery on Monday, though the police department also took suspects into custody for the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue at Lee High School a few miles away.

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Demonstrations had been held in Alabama’s capital city on Saturday and Sunday during the daylight hours, but Monday was the first gathering since an outbreak of violence in Birmingham ratcheted up tensions in the Yellowhammer State.

Mayor Steven Reed held a press conference at 6:00 p.m. and urged all those willing who could to stay home for the next few nights.

Various protesters tacitly acknowledged the violence in Birmingham and other cities across the country as they urged those assembled throughout the night to “stay calm” and “stay peaceful.”

“If you’re an agitator, you don’t belong here,” said one woman when the crowd had swelled.

There was evidence during the night that indicated the City of Montgomery was prepared for a more unruly evening than what occurred. A few dozen police officers were at the scene of the protest, but on the adjoining streets several more officers were close by that could have served as backup if needed.

Businesses nearby had prepared for bad behavior.

(Henry Thornton/Yellowhammer News)

The Montgomery Police Department erected barriers one block away from the capitol in each direction, and the lines drawn by the officers were never broken by the demonstrators.

Protesters began marching and chanting familiar nationwide slogans such as “black lives matter” and “Say his name — George Floyd” to begin their demonstration Monday night.

Yellowhammer News walked amidst the protesters and was able to observe myriad levels of anger, disagreement about tactics and positive reassurance of the mission at hand for those assembled.

(Henry Thornton/Yellowhammer)

Dozens of those assembled were documenting the event for social media, while others held signs and led the crowd in chants.

There were even moments of levity, such as when one young woman demanded to know who of the protesting men were single, because she liked what she was seeing.

Tensions were highest just after 9:00 p.m., when the crowd was at its largest and moved suddenly into close contact with the police standing behind a barricade.

Shortly after that, two police officers who had entered the crowd to have discussions with protesters withdrew after being surrounded on all sides by demonstrators who were jumping up and down jeering loudly.

One protester near Yellowhammer News shouted loudly that a nearby historical marker was a “slave trophy.”

Another man, who appeared to sense anger coming to a boil, urged him to calm down and maintain the peaceful proceedings of the evening.

(Henry Thornton/Yellowhammer News)

Another demonstrator asked the rhetorical question, “Do you know how wars are won?” He then answered his own question, “By f—–g sacrifice.”

That demonstrator was then engaged in a respectful conversation by Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley, Jr., who was standing at the front lines of the protest.

Just after 9:30 p.m., one of the loudest demonstrators was pulled from the crowd by the police. After what appeared to be a long discussion with multiple officers, he appeared to leave the protest without being taken into custody. An officer confirmed to Yellowhammer News later in the night that the man had not been arrested.

The removal of that man ended the most contentious portion of the evening. The crowd size began to diminish afterward, and there were only around 100 protesters remaining when the mandatory 10:00 p.m. curfew went into effect.

Just after the curfew, there appeared to be some energy among those remaining to stay until the voice of an Alabama State University student named Talisa Boswell rose above the din of the crowd.

“We’ll be back tomorrow,” Boswell promised as she urged her fellow demonstrators to obey the orders to disperse.

The crowd appeared to take Boswell’s message to heart as the vast majority of protesters left the scene.

One lone resisting woman was handcuffed and taken away by police at 10:15 p.m., and the department later confirmed to Yellowhammer that she had been arrested.

At 10:23 p.m., a SWAT unit that had been waiting around the corner pulled through the now-empty protest site, having gone unused during an event when the worst fears of many across the city never came to pass.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 hours ago

7 Things: Protests get nasty in Alabama and across the country, Donald Trump says he will restore law and order, Alabama AG says he will sue Birmingham for taking down Confederate monument and more …

7. Pat Dye has passed away

  • Former Auburn Football coach Pat Dye has passed away at 80 years old. He coached from 1981-1992 and was the Auburn athletics director from 1981-1991. 
  • Dye was hospitalized after he experienced kidney issues and was diagnosed with the coronavirus in May, but his official cause of death hasn’t been released yet.

6. If you’re going to protest, at least be safe

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  • With large groups of people protesting the death of George Floyd, the Alabama Department of Public Health is reminding people that the coronavirus pandemic is still happening. 
  • Dr. Karen Landers of ADPH said that people need to remember that “social distancing, good hand hygiene, and use of cloth face coverings in public as critically important measures to protect individuals and the community during this outbreak,” so if you’re going to protest at least wear a mask. 

5. Violence is always Trump’s fault, apparently

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden has shared his thoughts on the state of things across the country amid riots and protests over George Floyd’s death. He said that President Donald Trump “breathes oxygen into the hate.”
  • Biden went on to say that things that are being said now “encouraged people to bring out the vitriol.” He’s also promising that if he’s elected he’ll “significantly increase economic opportunity that’s across the board in a way that hasn’t existed” as a way to deal “with institutional structure, institutional racism, that need to be fixed.”

4. Birmingham has a curfew and took down monuments

  • Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s announced curfew seemed to quell the violence the city saw Sunday with no major disruptions on Monday. 
  • Woodfin also followed through in his promise to remove the Confederate memorial at Linn Park, a promise meant to soothe tensions the day before, but that was not the only Confederate statue to fall Monday as rioters took down a statue of Robert E. Lee in Montgomery.

3. AG Marshall will sue Birmingham

  • After Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said that he would have a Confederate monument removed from a park in the city, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said that the state will bring a civil suit against Birmingham that could bring a $25,000 fine. 
  • Under the Alabama Monuments Preservation Act this is the only action that could be taken if the Confederate monument is removed. Marshall said that if the monument is removed, he “will perform the duties assigned to me by the Act to pursue a new civil complaint against the City.”

2. The White House wants to put an end to violent protests

  • President Donald Trump responded to governors of states where riots are taking place, saying, “Most of you are weak. … They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.” Trump also said that people will have to be arrested and “you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.” He added there will be a “central command center” established at the White House.
  • Trump also had a defiant crowd dispersed in Lafeyette Park to clear out the area so he could visit the historic St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. to show that this will not be allowed to continue, and now he has to follow through on those words.

1. Alabama protests turn violent

  • Violence marred protests in Huntsville with rocks being thrown and teargas being used to disperse a crowd that moved across town to a shopping center, but it was less chaotic in other parts of the state.
  • Governor Kay Ivey has authorized the activation of at least 1,000 members of the Alabama National Guard due to the riots that took place in Birmingham, but this is mainly a precautionary decision. She said, “We will not allow our cities to become a target for those, especially from other states, who choose to use violence and destruction to make their point.”

3 hours ago

Confederate monument removed from Linn Park by City of Birmingham

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Monday night kept his promise, with the City removing the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Linn Park.

The City methodically removed the obelisk-like monument, starting with the top.

The middle piece followed next, with the bottom portion being removed shortly after midnight.

A crane placed each piece, together towering over 50-feet, on a flatbed truck to be hauled away. Only the base remains in Linn Park as of Tuesday morning.

Woodfin earlier on Monday stressed that the City intended on preserving the monument for display in a museum or for an organization like the Daughters of the Confederacy to take possession of it.

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The removal of the monument was broadcast live on Facebook by every major local TV network in the area.

You can watch respective livestreams by WBRC here, ABC 33/40 here, CBS 42 here and WVTM 13 here.

The monument was damaged and defaced by vandals on Sunday evening.

The City of Birmingham is expected to face a onetime fine of $25,000 for removing the monument in apparent violation of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.

“In order to prevent more civil unrest in our city, I think it is very imperative we remove this statue,” Woodfin on Monday said.

“That has a cost to it. I understand that the AG’s office can bring a civil suit against the city. If there is a judgment rendered from a judge, then we should be held accountable,” continued the mayor.

“I believe I am willing to accept that, because that is a lower cost than civil unrest in our city,” added Woodfin.

Monday’s removal of the statue culminates efforts by two City administrations since 2017 to do so.

RELATED: Statue of Robert E. Lee toppled at Montgomery high school

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Statue of Robert E. Lee toppled at Montgomery high school

A statue of Robert E. Lee was knocked down from its pedestal at Montgomery’s Lee High School sometime Monday evening, as evidenced by pictures from the scene.

When WSFA arrived on the scene, the TV outlet reported that no one was present besides police officers, who proceeded to stand the statue back up next to the pedestal, which looms large in front of the school’s main entrance.

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Per WSFA, it was not immediately clear what happened to the statue.

The outlet reported that the statue was subsequently loaded onto a truck to be removed from the scene.

The incident was discovered as a peaceful protest occurred in downtown Montgomery, just outside the historic Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was once the pastor.

This also came as the City of Birmingham continued to work to remove the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Linn Park.

Monday was an annual state holiday in Alabama, recognizing the birthday of Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederacy from 1861-1865.

UPDATE 11:00 p.m.

WSFA reported that the Montgomery Police Department has “suspects” in custody.

This is breaking news and may be updated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn