© 2024 KUAF
NPR Affiliate since 1985
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Affected by May 26 tornadoes? Find relief resources here.

Why the NAACP says new laws in Jackson, Mississippi, represent a 'state takeover'

More than 200 people gather on the steps of the Mississippi Capitol on Jan. 31, 2023, to protest against a bill that would expand the patrol territory for the state-run Capitol Police within the majority-Black city of Jackson and create a new court with appointed rather than elected judges. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
More than 200 people gather on the steps of the Mississippi Capitol on Jan. 31, 2023, to protest against a bill that would expand the patrol territory for the state-run Capitol Police within the majority-Black city of Jackson and create a new court with appointed rather than elected judges. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed new laws Friday to expand the power of the state’s law enforcement among other changes.

While Reeves and other lawmakers who support the provisions say they’re necessary to curb crime in the state’s capital city, the NAACP says these new laws represent a “state takeover” by majority-white lawmakers in a majority-Black city. The organization has filed a lawsuit to challenge the laws.

One of the new regulations, SB 2343, expands the jurisdiction of Capitol Police in the state. They were originally focused around state buildings, but their reach now extends farther into Jackson. Opponents say this makes holding protests at the state capitol harder and more dangerous. Some fear it could stifle free speech and cause confusion among residents because there will now be two police forces operating in the same area.

“We’re now seeing this concerted attack by the state legislature — the majority-white state legislature — and then a white state governor who signed these bills into law to say that Jackson residents, their voices, what they’ve been asking for is not important,” says Abre’ Conner, director of environmental and climate justice at the NAACP.

Another newly introduced law — HB 1020 — will create a new court system within the capital district, a move that Republican supporters say could help mitigate the backlog of court cases the city has now.

“This is going to expand the ability for the state to again, take over Jackson residents’ ability to control their own narrative, to control their own resources,” Conner says. “It’s going to be led by a state appointed official. They’re going to be charged by state-appointed prosecutors. It’s going to be state-appointed judges, not the judges, for example, that Jackson residents may actually feel like represent their interests.”

Amid an existing water crisis in the city, Jackson residents feel that the legislature isn’t addressing the needs they’ve been pushing for and instead using its oversight to increase enforcement.

“The governor has now kind of sanctioned this state takeover of the resources of the Jackson residents,” Conner says.


Gabrielle Healy produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Gabe Bullard. Grace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.