BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – Gov. Bob Riley’s warrantless raids of electronic bingo casinos in Macon and Greene counties discriminate against the counties’ mostly black residents by effectively nullifying their votes to allow the bingo machines, according to a federal class action.
More than 31 residents of Macon and Greene counties say they approved constitutional amendments “establishing lawful regimes” for electronic bingo operations. These amendments made the sheriff of each county the “regulator and enforcer” of the bingo halls, according to the class action.
But the named plaintiffs, all of whom are black, say Gov. Riley has “implemented a de facto replacement of the sheriffs” with Mobile district attorney John Tyson, whom Riley appointed as commander of his gambling task force.
The voters say Riley and Tyson sent state troopers to Macon and Greene counties to conduct “non-judicial, warrantless police raids” on electronic bingo halls, for the purpose of “threatening and intimidating” them.
They say the raids discriminate by “denying African Americans the ability to exercise home rule in their respective counties,” in keeping with the state’s “long history of utilizing the state Constitution and the power of central state government to deny African Americans in Black Belt counties … the ability to govern themselves and to make and to enforce laws of their choice.”
The last time a sitting governor used an executive order to authorize state troopers to conduct armed raids was in 1963, the lawsuit claims, when Gov. George Wallace tried to stop black children from attending public schools in Alabama.
Class members accuse Riley and Tyson of violating the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act. They demand an order barring state officials from conducting any more police raids on bingo operations in their counties.
They are represented by Edward Still of Birmingham.