“Satan, we’re going to tear your kingdom down,” the 50 or so marchers sang, in a protest led by local resident Glen Ray, along with local minister Roosevelt Parker and Anniston City Councilman Ben Little. The protesters, including several children, marched around the courthouse seven times to protest the spending of the settlement money won in a lawsuit against the Monsanto Corporation for PCB contamination in Anniston. Protesters also expressed concern about the wrangling over the former military fort, McClellan, as well as alleged police and judicial corruption that treats black residents unfairly.
“You don’t know how it is to go in the courthouse black,” said Glen Ray, the coordinator of the protest. “You go in the courthouse black, you already got a sentence.”
Rain fell on the marchers intermittently as they made their trek around the building, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of those marching. Some walked with canes, a concession to illnesses they say were a product of PCB contamination, and were eager to tell their stories.
Jimmy Bledsoe and his wife, Gloria, received $3,000, less than they feel they were entitled to from the settlement.
“My back, legs, my head hurts,” he said. “It got in my lungs and stuff, and they give me medicine for that.”
His wife says her head aches because of the contamination.
“Sometimes, I can’t hardly think right,” she said. “I just want our money, and you know that’s right, ’cause people need their money, and some people didn’t live to see it, to get their money.”
Although they were unsure how much money they should have received, the Bledsoes want the money to help themselves and their church, they said.
Some blamed Circuit Judge Joel Laird, who heard the Monsanto case, for their low level of compensation from the settlement.
“Judge Laird has done us so wrong,” said Terry Pugh as he walked to the courthouse. “We haven’t gotten our money. We’re supposed to get $10,000 a year.”
Efforts Friday to reach Laird were unsuccessful.
A few politicians, including Weaver mayor and candidate for state representative, Garry Bearden, showed up to express their support for the marchers.
“We’re all interested in equality and fairness and judicial correctness,” Bearden said. “Judicial correctness is something that we all need. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white.”
Most of the protesters, however, were black, and the speakers were speaking directly to them.
“McClellan is in Anniston; McClellan should be ruled by Anniston citizens and the government of Anniston,” said Ralph Bradford, a businessman and political activist who spoke to the protesters on the courthouse steps. “In Cal-houn County, African Americans are 17 percent of the population in the county. In Anniston, we are 50-plus percent of the population. So, they took away (property) that belongs to the majority population here in Anniston and put it in the county where we become the minority.”
Councilman Little, who has filed several lawsuits against the authorities organized to manage the McClellan property, also spoke to the crowd.
“You are here to send a message to everyone in this courthouse, across this city and throughout the county,” he said. “You are sick and tired of being sick and tired, fed up with the corruption that has gone on in this county and this community for so long, and the judges that are on this seat is not doing their job. They need to go.”
It’s all about justice, said Harry Ray, whose brother organized the event. Blacks in the community have not received equal treatment for a long time, he said.
“The injustice in this community has been going on for 40 or 50 years,” Harry said. “That’s why I’m marching. Maybe somebody can open their eyes and find out that everybody in Anniston, Alabama, is not pleased with the situation.”
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.