Governor Riley of Alabama had intended to spend ten minutes addressing a group of people who support his anti-gambling position. Instead what he got was a chaotic and violent clash between those supporters and former employees of now closed casinos who want their jobs back.In order to speak to the crowd the Governor had to be surrounded by Capitol police, state troopers, and legislative security officers on the steps of the State House. Signs were raised from both sides and ranged from “Thank you Bob Riley for upholding the law” to “Impeach Governor Adolf Hitler.” The chaos and frenzy between the opponents is starting to look and feel an awful lot like to clashes during the days of segregation.
The rowdy rally was reported extensively by the Mobile Press Register on February 24th (www.al.com/press-register/pageone/wednesday1a.pdf) .The Register has long supported a referendum to rewrite the state constitution. A document over 100 years old, written when blacks and females had no voice at all, which now has over 800 amendments, cannot seem to make it out of the House for fear that legalized gambling (among other things) would be included in the changes. Yesterday the House again voted 58-32 against a resolution to hold a referendum during the Nov.2 general election to rewrite the constitution.
A private citizen, Luther S. Pate IV, took out a full page ad in the Register today which he called a public notice to John Tyson and Bob Riley. In reads ATTENTION CRIME FIGHTERS!! And goes on to tell his intended audience that the cruise ships that come into the port of Mobile have Slot Machines, Crap Tables, Black Jack and Roulette and that if the Governor feels every gambling machine that does not belong to the Indians should be confiscated, then the ones on the cruise ships should be also. Clearly the ad is meant to get the cruise ship owners to become a part of this fight to protect their interests. But no one actually believes that any such action would take place because of the financial value the cruise lines have to Alabama.
In a previous article I stress my concern for the seriousness of this conflict. Millions of dollars and thousands of jobs are at stake. The fact that the Governor needs to be surrounded by security to speak to his constituents for 10 minutes clearly shows how the concern for the safety of those involved is escalating. It’s only a matter of time before there is bloodshed. Do you want to be the one who dies over the issue of gambling in Alabama?