World News – US – Suddenly all politics are national in a small town in Alabama


The race for mayor of Montevallo was once low-key and non-partisan In the Trump era, one candidate learned the hard way that this is no longer the case

MONTEVALLO, Ala – Perhaps no one was more surprised to learn that Joyce Jones wanted to disband the police than Joyce Jones herself

On August 11, Ms Jones was on the home stretch of her campaign for mayor of Montevallo, a town of 6,674 people in central Alabama, when she appeared in a candidate forum alongside her opponent, Rusty Nix The moderator asked the two candidates how they would work with the city police department SP Jones said she was grateful for the work of Montevallo’s law enforcement and that as mayor she would consider adding social programs to help the city not only respond to crime (which there is has little in Montevallo), but also to prevent it

She woke up the next morning to find her phone clogged with social media notifications « Defund the police », she recalls « It was like a forest fire » The citizens of one of the groups Facebook locals accused Ms Jones, who was posing as the city’s first black mayor, used the « same language » in her response as the Black Lives Matter movement, implying she had a hidden agenda « Very little people will say « Defund the police » « , one man warned

Montevallo’s elections are non-partisan, and there was a time when they felt it.Candidates would run on proposals such as updating sewage systems, beautifying the main street and launching a  » a city-wide recycling program

But as Ms Jones, a 44-year-old Montevalloan, found that even her small town was not immune to the divisions that rocked the Trump era, the political upheavals that would once have felt out of place in conversations informal at Lucky’s supermarket, not to mention local elections, but that now seemed to color everything

Ms Jones tried to crush the rumors She posted on her campaign page about her Alabama National Guard daughter, niece and law enforcement nephews, how she didn’t believe in « Montevallo PD definancing » But the lie continued to ricochet on social media A man shared a photo of activists in Austin, Texas, holding a giant black and white banner « Defund the police « , Captioned: » The future of Montevallo if the liberals continue to be elected « 

For Ms. Jones, this was just a fan-inspired battle in a multi-election season, an election that would mirror national battles against poll observers and the targeting of black voters; include sobbing staff, accusations of racism and warnings of Marxism; and culminate in a disturbing feeling among many that by the time the final vote was counted on the evening of August 25, something in the city had been lost

« This has always been this center of civility in my heart, » said outgoing Montevallo mayor Hollie Cost « Before Trump’s age, first and foremost » – she paused – « this, whatever either way, we all got along He just tore us apart « 

It’s not like Montevallo is tension-free until 2020 There had always been those who thought the city leaders were too busy with the University of Montevallo, the local college But that was the scene flourishing artistic and vocal campusgBTQ community that had long given the city a gradual shine, at least compared to most other places in the deep rural south

Ask a lot of people in Montevallo when things in town started to feel different, and they will point to the evening of March 5, 2019, when the town’s historic preservation commission, of which Ms Jones was a new member of the council, gathered for its monthly meeting

University faculty members were to tell the story of the night some 130 years ago when two black men were lynched in Montevallo, and propose the installation of a marker, funded by Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, on Main Street The committee opened the meeting to the whole of Montevallo

On September 1, 1889, according to The Montgomery Advertiser, a mob accused the two black men of killing a local white man. After a night search, the mob captured the men; one confessed to the crime, the other denied any involvement The crowd hung them from a tree

At the end of the presentation, the outcry began « The reaction was immediate: ‘It wasn’t a lynching It was border justice,’ recalled Paul Mahaffey, a black professor who had helped prepare the presentation

Many of the meeting participants wanted to know why Montevallo, who is 73% white, should ‘commemorate the murderers’ – that is, black men, not the mob – and why they don’t. also not considering a marker for the white man who had been killed SP Jones, other than Dr Mahaffey, was the only black person present « I remember wanting to say things like, ‘All of you, that ain’t only these two men  »

But she remained primarily mom SP Jones was used to being the only black woman in the room; she wasn’t used to feeling like this. « For probably the first time as an adult I was like, ‘These people don’t want me here’ ‘

After the meeting, many members of the historical commission began to resign SP Jones suddenly found himself in the de facto chair In August 2019, after disputing enough members for a quorum, the commission approved the installation of the marker Soon after, the city council, largely made up of professors and university staff, also approved the measure

The dust drove Ms Jones, mother of four whose husband is a Baptist preacher, considering running for local office.She believed that a campaign focused on inclusion, to make sure no one would feel never again like she did that march night, could do good She announced her candidacy at a city council meeting on June 8, the day the marker was unveiled. And Mr. Nix, who had been the only city councilor to vote against, would be his opponent

Ms Jones quickly sensed how the presidential race would trump her own In her first round of door knocking, she introduced herself to an older white man He had a question: Who was she voting for in November, Donald Trump or Joe Biden?

Ms Jones responded with what would become her version of a derisory speech – that the mayoral elections were non-partisan, that her slogan was « One Montevallo »

Sure, he said But he was a Tory, and he only voted Tory, and she didn’t answer his question When Ms Jones said she preferred not to discuss it , he nodded « Well, » he said, « that tells me all I need to know » He closed the door

That moment set the tone for the months to come: the white man who asked if she was a liberal who planned to take up arms, the black woman who asked for assurance that she did not support Mr. Trump But if Ms Jones tried to downplay the notion of « sides » – no city official could take up arms, she promised; the election was non-partisan, she reiterated – Mr. Nix seemed to be kissing her

Mr. Nix, who is white and also a lifelong Montevalloan, had been a member of the city council for more than a decade. At the start of the campaign, he joined forces with other city council candidates to form a sort common ticket, which nobody in Montevallo said they had never seen during their elections They gathered their signs across town, sent mailers and organized meetings under the same banner: the Conservative Coalition

Mr Nix did not respond to interview requests for this article But according to Chris Brown, a Birmingham-based Republican consultant hired by Mr Nix, the coalition offered an alternative to the « progressive » path they thought the city was taking

« There has been a dynamic change in the culture, » said M brown « I think Rusty Nix saw the opportunity »

Indeed, an increasingly vocal contingent of Montevallois believed that local government was more interested in promoting things like « identity politics » and « cancellation of culture » than improving The city The Conservative Coalition suggested to whom leadership they could emulate instead: During the 11th Mayoral Candidates Forum, one member wore a 2020 Trump hat with his Nix campaign t-shirt

It was as a result of this forum that the defund-the-police rumors began To Mrs Jones and her supporters, these rumors, and their persistence despite her calls, were proof that the election had taken a racial dimension – which the tensions simmering since the lynching markers debate had, when combined with a national judgment on race, finally boiled down

« No matter what she said, » Dr. Cost said, « The assumption was that she’s black, so she wants to dispel the police. It didn’t stop »

Ms. Jones’ campaign once got a call from one of their supporters, a white retiree named Bill Nathews He said someone had left a document with him that he needed to see

Twelve years ago Mrs Jones, whose family had struggled during the housing crisis, wrote a bounced check for groceries In Mr Nathews’ hand was a print detailing that He did not say who had given it, but they had done so with a message: « This is who you support »

« Well, damn it, who hasn’t returned a check to Montevallo? We are all poor here ”, M Nathews had joked But Ms Jones was humiliated Days later, an anonymous Facebook account began sharing the document on the town’s community pages, and some citizens called for further ‘background checks’ on Ms Jones (M Brown said that M Nix’s campaign had nothing to do with the document or the Facebook account)

Political contours of race have become sharper On a community Facebook page, a voter shared an article on ‘cultural Marxism’, encouraging users to discuss how this might apply to future ones. Montevallo elections The Progressive Alliance of Montevallo, a group of local activists, endorsed Ms Jones, putting her on the spot for the group’s articles on things like « reproductive justice » and the « microaggressions » she insisted on. had nothing to do with his vision as mayor

It was a vision that, in fact, did not differ much from Mr. Nix’s Their responses in candidate forums on infrastructure, security, and economic growth issues were largely the same But at this point, their perceived differences on national issues have eclipsed everything else

When Patrick Mayton, whose wife, Tonia, was running for a spot on city council, saw the message warning of Montevallo’s future by pointing at the defund-the-police banner in Austin, he looked exasperated

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« This is NOT the future of Montevallo !!! » he pleaded in response, « Thank you and others here for wanting to be vigilant against communism and the postponement of police funding, but I am convinced that we need not fear these scenarios. »

What kept Greg Reece, Ms. Jones ‘campaign manager, the promise to see Ms. Jones’ grandmother, who came of age in Jim Crow, Alabama, entered the polling station and voted for his granddaughter

On the morning of August 25, Ethel Blake, Mrs Jones’ mother, loaded her own 88 year old mother, Sadie Burns, into the car It was raining as Mrs Blake drove to the polling station and drove helped his mother to line up They were wearing their Joyce Jones t-shirts which, as they had verified on the Alabama Secretary of State’s website, was legal when voting

Each candidate has the option of appointing a poll observer inside the building As most candidates had done for years in Montevallo, Ms Jones’ campaign did not appoint one However, the four members of the Conservative Coalition had observers on duty

Ms Blake felt their eyes on her as she reached the front of the line Helping her mother get her ballot, she learned why Poll watchers had flagged the two women for their t-shirts They Should Go at home and change

Mrs. Blake’s face burned – she knew she had read the website correctly, but didn’t know how to respond – as she went to get her mother, who got mad « But I didn’t not yet voted, « she kept repeating. Returning home, Mrs. Blake pushed a plain blouse over her mother’s head. » Mum, I know, please, « she said, holding back tears as Mrs. Burns said she didn’t want to change

Mrs Blake prayed to God to cover her mouth as they came back to vote She called Dr Reece to tell him what happened « It was not as an adult that I sobbed that way, ”Dr Reece said

They weren’t the only black voters arrested for their t-shirts Herman Lehman, the city clerk, said poll observers – none of whom agreed to be interviewed for this story – had been misinformed about the rule But white voters who wore campaign gear said they had voted without a problem. « It was really crazy because it was after voting that we received information that people had been turned away, » said Andrea Eckelman, who had worn his Jones t-shirt, button and mask to vote « And the only refused people I heard about were people of color »

Ms Jones’ campaign spent the rest of the day trying to confirm that anyone who had been turned down for a t-shirt had finally returned to vote. Finally, from a tent outside the polling station, they listened the results trickle down

There had been a record turnout in Montevallo, a 60% increase over 2016 which included many new voters Out of 1,307 votes cast, M Nix won by 49

Shortly after the results were announced, according to Ms Jones and three others who witnessed them, a van full of teenagers « You suck » they shouted adding a racial epithet

Mrs. Jones reflected on that moment « Look, I’m not the angry black woman I’m not Like, I’m fighting really, really hard not to let this be my narrative, » she said. said « But we, even I, walk thinking that these things don’t happen – not here, more more »

But they did and in the weeks following the election, this fact continued to discourage those who felt they knew the city better than anyone else On social media, citizens argued over which side had been the real source of the breed’s bigotry As for the vibe in Montevallo since then, many were unsure how to best describe it Some said « weird » Others , « tense » and « different »

« I love Montevallo But that wasn’t what I grew up on, » said Patricia Honeycutt, 67, who has lived in the city her whole life. « It’s hate – I think these national policies just made it worse »

« There will be no place for identity politics within this administration », he wrote « We are #MontevalloUnited »

President Trump plans to return to the election track and Joe Biden will visit Pennsylvania this weekend, sending an economic messageRead live updates

Many rules have changed during the pandemic, making it more difficult to know how to vote This interactive guide can help you make sure your vote is counted

Joe Biden and Donald Trump need 270 electoral votes to reach the White House Try to build your own coalition of battlefield states to see potential results


World News – United States – In a small town in Alabama, suddenly all politics is national


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