Michael Ray James, who’s a mayoral candidate for Sylacauga, has called for public hangings for drug dealers who have been convicted three times.
“Please consider that Drug Dealers have murdered, for profit, approximately 1,000,000 teenagers, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles in a short 20 year period,” James wrote in a Facebook post on May 13. “Yes, I’m very aware public hanging is extreme and totally not possible without Federal Approvals and not from city or state officials. Extreme yes, but definitely brings attention to this scourge on Sylacauga, Alabama and the United States of America.”
Some disagreed with James’ proposal on social media.
“A public hanging of any sorts isn’t the proper position anyone, yet alone a someone running for public office should endorse in any way…,” one Facebook user wrote in response. “You know the statement has racist undertones all over it, but you’re smart enough to phrase it in a way for spin purposes.”
“I understand their position,”James said an interviewwith AL.com. “It’s just a difference of opinion. I think everybody has an opinion and that’s OK. I am serious about, after somebody has been convicted three times, I am very serious about them losing their life, whether it’s to lethal injection or hanging.”
“I feel like I need to bring this to those Blacks, not all, but enough for me to explain this: My position on taking the lives of murderous drug dealers, after three convictions, has not a single thread or motivation of my being racist,” James wrote on May 21. “Think about this… there are far far more Caucasian drug dealers than black drug dealers. You are disparaging your own race by assuming/asserting that all drugs dealers are black. Get it? You will never ever find a more non-racist person than myself.”
Joseph E. Kennedy, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, wrote a paper with Kasi Wahler Robsinson, graduate of UNC School of Law and Isaac Unah, associate professor of political science at UNC-Chapel Hill. Their paper found that a disproportionate number of people of color are arrested for drug offenses.
“Offenders of color are by and large not more serious offenders in terms of quantity,” the authors wrote. “They just possess and sell drugs that are the most frequent target of arrest. Blacks are disproportionately arrested overall because we arrest more for ‘Black drugs’ than for ‘White drugs.’ Racial disparities might vanish or reverse if we were to make as many meth/amphetamine and heroin arrests as crack cocaine arrests.”
“Whites are mainly arrested for heroin and meth, among the hard drugs, and blacks are much more likely to be arrested for crack,”Kennedy said, according to The New York Times. “But we don’t arrest as many people for heroin and meth.”
The next electionfor city officials is being held on Aug. 25, according to Sylacauga’s website.
Sylacauga is located in Talladega County, Alabama and the current mayor isJim Heigl, who took office in 2016.