A group organized by Black Voters Matter on Tuesday called on Mississippi lawmakers to kill House Bill 1020 and other measures they see as a “hostile takeover” of Jackson by state leaders.

“This is ruthlessly racist … a land and power grab by a majority-white Legislature,” said Carol Blackmon, state manager of Black Voters Matter Fund, at a press conference at the state Capitol.

HB 1020, as originally drafted, would create a special judicial district within the city of Jackson with judges appointed instead of elected as they are everywhere else in the state. The original measure, billed as a way to fight crime in Jackson, would create permanent judicial posts appointed by the white chief justice of the state Supreme Court instead of elected by the Black majority population of Jackson.

The original measure would also expand an existing Capital Complex Improvement District patrolled by Capitol Police to cover an area of north Jackson that contains most of the city’s white population.

The Senate recently made major changes to the bill, including making chief justice-appointed judges temporary, through 2026, then adding another permanent elected judge for the Hinds County district that covers Jackson. The Senate also changed it to give Capitol Police jurisdiction throughout the city of Jackson, not just in the CCID.

READ MORE: Senate panel strips many ‘onerous’ provisions from HB 1020

But those protesting the measure on Tuesday — and most of the city’s legislative delegation — still oppose the Senate amended version. The House has also overhauled a separate Senate bill to include its original CCID Capitol Police expansion.

“Our position is if you have real interest in eliminating crime, then why not provide resources to the city’s official police force, instead of creating an alternate one,” Blackmon said.

Unless the House concurs with Senate changes, a panel of House and Senate negotiators will likely try to hammer out a final version of the bills in the final days of the legislative session.

READ MORE: House revives state police expansion and bitter fight over Jackson ‘takeover’

Wendell Paris, of the Minority People’s Council, likened the legislation to the 1857 U.S. Supreme Court Dred Scott decision, which held the Constitution did not extend citizenship or rights to Americans of African descent. He also said it would “violate the spirit and the letter of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

“This would create a superstructure that takes away the power of the vote of duly qualified electors,” Paris said. “… Mississippi is one place where we cannot tolerate going back to pre-the Civil War era and violating federal law … It will not stand.”

Wendell and others noted the national attention Mississippi is garnering from the fight over the legislation and warned it could hurt the state economically and “you might not be able to play football in the SEC here.”

Former state Rep. Kathy Sykes of Jackson urged Jacksonians who are not to register to vote or, “this is the kind of thing we get.”

“This (legislation) would have you believe that Black folk cannot govern, and we can,” Sykes said. “… We are asking for help. We are not asking for a takeover … or Jim Crow 2.0.”

Rukia Lumumba, director of the People’s Advocacy Institute and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s sister, told people and media gathered on the Capitol steps Tuesday a story about a youth she once counseled at summer camp, who later started getting into trouble. A Jackson city police officer was often called about problems with the youth. He knew the girl, knew her family and knew the community well enough to find resources to help her get back on the right path instead of locking her up, Lumumba said. She said an occupying state police force cordoning off parts of the city will not provide such community policing.

“Kill these bills,” she said. “The consequences are not minor.”

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.