Uvalda, GA, is a town of only 530 people, mostly white, that’s tucked away in southeastern Georgia. The small town relies almost completely on farming, boasting a tight-knit, faith-based sense of community, which is nothing unusual.
However, a good deal of hype has recently surrounded Uvalda’s Mayor, Paul Bridges, as he publicly (and rather bravely) announced his opposition to HB 87, Georgia’s SB1070 copycat bill. Last month, when HB 87 was introduced, Bridges became something of a national spokesperson against a law that many, Bridges included, regard as unconstitutional and damaging to communities everywhere.
As Bridges’ story came to be covered by the likes of CNN, Colorlines, and other major media sources, many began to applaud him for helping to turn the tide against the anti-immigrant movement.
In an interview with CNN on June 10, Bridges said that HB 87 “is going to affect all of Georgia, and the economy, and that it is going to impact the social fabric of our state.” He continued, “we are a mixed people. There are people who are documented and undocumented citizens who are all within one family. And this law targets a segment of that family, and it’s breaking families apart.”
Not one to simply complain, Bridges, alongside the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil rights organizations, joined in a law suit against the state of Georgia for civil rights violations associated with HB 87. Last week, Bridges even convened a round-table discussion on HB 87 and its impact on the farming community. Myriad community members and representatives , including farmers, city and county officials, and migrant-focused organizations, attended the event, which was held at the Uvalda Community Center.
According to GALEO, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, one Montgomery County farmer in attendance compared the demands of HB 87 to “Nazi Germany” and the “witch hunts in Salem.”
Another attendee, a woman from Toombs County, said, “We’re traveling backwards. Our leaders are not focusing on the innocent children who are going to be hurt because of this legislation.”
Mayor Paul Bridges deserves credit from civil and human rights supporters nationally. He is doing what every community oriented person should do during intense moments of crises and reflection—he’s bringing folks together, allowing them to advocate on behalf of both themselves and their own communities.