Georgia activists call for boycott over ‘deafening silence’ on voting rights
Georgia activists are calling for a statewide boycott of Coca-Cola as part of an escalating effort to get major corporations to oppose significant voting restrictions Republicans in the state legislature are on the verge of approving.
The call for the boycott, first reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, is coming from leaders of the sixth district of the AME church, which includes more than 500 Black churches in Georgia. Bishop Reginald Thomas Jackson, the presiding prelate, said that there had been a “deafening silence” around voting rights from Coca-Cola and other companies that had put out statements last year supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Our position is they’ve not lived up to their own words. By your silence you’re actually being complicit. So we’re going to say to them, if you want our money, then you ought to have our back,” he said in an interview. He added that he expected other civil rights groups to join in the boycott calls soon.
For weeks, activists have been placing pressure on Coca-Cola, as well as Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Aflac, UPS, and Southern Company – all based in Georgia – to use their political clout to oppose bills in the legislature that would require voters to provide ID information when they vote by mail, limit the availability of absentee drop boxes and give the state legislature more power to meddle in local election boards, among other measures.
But those major companies have declined to speak out directly against the bills. The Georgia chamber of commerce released a statement earlier this month saying it had “concern and opposition” to provisions in the legislation. The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce has been a little more specific, saying earlier this month it was focused on addressing weekend absentee voting, drop boxes and ID requirements.
Coca-Cola told the Guardian earlier this month it supported both chambers of commerce and a “balanced approach to elections”. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the boycott.
Georgia lawmakers will probably hammer out a final version of sweeping voting changes before the legislative session ends next week. While they walked back an effort to cut weekend early voting, they still have left sweeping restrictions in bills that civil rights groups say are a blatant effort to suppress votes.
Jackson said he plans to lead a protest at the Georgia capitol on Thursday and did not rule out calling on boycotts of the other major companies.
“Boycotting is not something we really want to do,” he said. “Coca-Cola is a fine company. But at the same time, we think all of these major companies have responsibilities on issues of social justice.”
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