MONTGOMERY, AL -- "Jobs, jobs, jobs" was the chant as more than 1,500 angry citizens staged a march and rally at the Alabama Capitol Building here on Aug. 28 to protest the loss of an estimated 7,000 jobs due to the government's statewide shutdown of electronic bingo games.
Supported by a recent favorable ruling from the state Supreme Court, the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling has raided numerous casinos around the state for the past two years. According to Gov. Bob Riley, who leaves office in January 2011, electronic bingo games are nothing more than illegal slot devices under state law.
Riley is a Republican, so perhaps it was no coincidence that the Aug. 28 march was led by Democratic state Rep. John Rogers (Birmingham) and other Democrats. Also addressing the crowd was Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Jefferson), who compared the pro-bingo rally to the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom organized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the same date (Aug. 28) back in 1963.
(Last March, the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition had vowed to stage a "jobs march" in Birmingham to protest bingo hall closures, but he did not participate in the recent event.)
Voter registration booths were set up across from the state Capitol building for protestors to sign up and several speakers vowed that citizens would throw anti-bingo lawmakers out of office in the coming November elections. A Riley administration spokesman dismissed the rally as election-season politics.