Philadelphia activists speak on history of voter suppression

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Communities of color have been disenfranchised in the past, and some say that voter suppression is still an issue in the 2020 presidential election.

"Jim Crow gets smarter, so now I call them Jim Crow esquire or Jim Crow on Twitter," legal expert Charles Gibbs says.

With taking a step back in history, Black men were granted the right to vote in 1870, but literacy tests held many back. Then came the Jim Crow era.

"We saw the KKK and different organizations in the south and across the country trying their best to make sure African Americans would not vote," Gibbs said.

In 1896, with Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled separate but equal.

"Think about people who died, people who were hurt, people bitten by dogs, people that were lynched," said Urban League of Philadelphia President Andrea Custis.

Today, the right to vote is a hurdle for countless reasons. Minorities are hit the hardest, and many say it starts at the top.

"You have a person telling people to show up at polls and monitor what's happening, and the Proud Boys and other organizations the Department of Justice have considered terrorist organizations are saying, 'Sure we'll show up,'" Gibbs said.

"Individuals are coming here in Philadelphia in particular because supposedly people say we're a bad city, but let me just say this, 'We get in good trouble. I'm with John Lewis on that,'" Custis said.

There are several issues that come into play, including felons who have done their time not having the right to vote in every state and also scare tactics specifically aimed at the elderly.

Many organizations, including the Urban League of Philadelphia, are making sure people to vote given the pandemic.

"We have so much at stake for this 2020 election and we're not letting anybody push us around. We will be there, we will do absentee ballots, we will do going to the poll we go early," Custis said.
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