Outrage over Georgia’s new anti-immigration law spilled into the plaza at the state Capitol in Atlanta on Saturday. Hundreds of activists from labor, civil rights groups, and community and immigration advocacy organizations denounced the measure as an affront to human dignity.
The law “degrades people who work hard every day, pay taxes and want to do right by their families,” declared AFSCME International Sec.-Treas. Lee A. Saunders. “It’s a hate law – plain and simple.”
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network, also condemned the law, HB 87, which became effective on July 1. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed the measure into law in May.
Approximately 600 young AFSCME activists attending the union’s Next Wave Conference joined the demonstration, demanding that lawmakers focus on finding real solutions to Georgia’s problems rather than to pit groups against one another, and attack immigrant working families.
Earlier in the day, Saunders spoke to the Next Wavers about the challenges that face them. “Somebody’s got to confront these inequities,” he said. “Somebody’s got to say, this land is our land too, and you can’t take it away! Somebody’s got to say, we have fought too hard and too long to let you steal our rights and our dignity! Somebody’s got to stand up and fight for the future! And it’s got to be us. It’s got to be AFSCME. It’s got to be Next Wave.”
Opening the Next Wave rally with a prayer was Bishop Greg Fann, executive director of AFSCME’s Fulton County Employees Local 3. The conference, which runs through Sunday, has brought together AFSCME activists age 35 and under. They will help develop the next generation of AFSCME leaders by stepping up themselves and mentoring others.