Faith leaders plan April 7 boycott over Georgia voting law

AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson makes a statement during a press conference with other religious leaders outside of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, April 1, 2021. Jackson called on people to boycott Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta Air Lines because he feels they have not taken a strong stance on the state’s new voting law. The boycott is not expected to take effect until April 7.(Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson makes a statement during a press conference with other religious leaders outside of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, April 1, 2021. Jackson called on people to boycott Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta Air Lines because he feels they have not taken a strong stance on the state’s new voting law. The boycott is not expected to take effect until April 7.(Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Goal is to push Coke, Delta, Home Depot to oppose restrictions here and in other states

AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson and other faith and community leaders announced a national boycott of Georgia-based corporations Coca-Cola, Delta and Home Depot over the passage of the state’s new voting law.

The boycott is not expected to take effect until April 7.

The measure, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last month, harkened back to the days of Jim Crow racism, said Jackson, presiding prelate of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 6th District of Georgia.

The group stood in front of the World of Coca-Cola Thursday afternoon, one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions and a showpiece for the Atlanta-based beverage maker. Other companies could be added to the boycott later, they said.

The boycott is not something they want to do, but have to do, Jackson said during the press conference that included interfaith leaders, elected officials, civil rights groups and labor union representatives. ”... We cannot and will not support the companies that do not support us in our struggle to cast our ballots and exercise our freedom.”

ExploreGeorgia voting law: Key details of the bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp

The Rev. Shanan E. Jones, president of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, pours out a bottle of Coca-Cola as he makes remarks during a press conference with other religious leaders outside of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, April 1, 2021.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
The Rev. Shanan E. Jones, president of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, pours out a bottle of Coca-Cola as he makes remarks during a press conference with other religious leaders outside of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, April 1, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Jackson said he still hoped to meet virtually or have conversations with the three CEOs of Delta Air Lines, Coke and Home Depot. He said he spoke with James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s chief executive, by Zoom on Wednesday and they plan to talk more next week.

Voting rights advocates have criticized business leaders for being silent or not speaking forcibly enough against the legislation.

The top executives at Delta and Coke this week issued stronger statements about the new election law, calling it “unacceptable.” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a note to employees that the law was “based on a lie” of widespread voter fraud in last November’s election. Quincey also called the law “unacceptable” and “wrong.”

ExploreCoke, Delta oppose Georgia’s ‘unacceptable’ voting law
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Providing the facts and context that help readers understand the current debate over voting laws is a priority for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For a better understanding of the issues driving Legislative action, click on these links.

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Officials found no evidence of widespread election fraud, a notion which former President Donald Trump and his supporters have falsely and aggressively pushed.

The AME’s 6th District is also a plaintiff in one of three lawsuits challenging the Republican-backed law. There has been a call to move the MLB All-Star game out of Cobb County due to the voting law, a move President Joe Biden said he supports.

The faith community, Black churches in particular, played a big role in get-out-the-vote efforts along with voter rights organizations. Some churches provided transportation to the polls and provided water and snacks to those waiting in line.

The new law would restrict public volunteers from passing out water or food to voters in line, along with impose voter ID requirements and limit drop boxes, among other restrictions.

“We don’t want to have to fight, but the fight is in us,” said the Rev. Lee May, former DeKalb County CEO, citing the record turnout for November’s election. “We don’t want to have to fight, but the fight is not for us, it’s for the people.”

ExploreGa.’s voting law fuels more talk of pulling MLB All-Star game from Cobb County
Religious leaders hold bottles of water with labels that read “Voter Suppression” following a press conference outside of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, April 1, 2021. Bishop Reginald T. Jackson has called on people to boycott Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta Air Lines because he feels they have not taken a strong stance on Georgia's new voting law. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
Religious leaders hold bottles of water with labels that read “Voter Suppression” following a press conference outside of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, April 1, 2021. Bishop Reginald T. Jackson has called on people to boycott Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta Air Lines because he feels they have not taken a strong stance on Georgia's new voting law. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Jackson said companies can avoid the April 7 boycott by taking several steps, including publicly stating their opposition to the Georgia voting legislation, Senate Bill 202, and calling for legislatures in other states to rescind their actions in introducing elections bills Jackson said would greatly restrict voting. Corporate leaders should also state their opposition to similar legislation in other states and withhold financial support to candidates and parties that vote for and support such legislation, Jackson said.

In a USA Today opinion piece, Georgia Democrat and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, the founder of Fair Fight, wrote that companies have to be on the right side of history on voting issues.

She said history has proven economic boycotts work and people have the right to boycott.

She acknowledged, though, that they can be “complicated affairs that require a long-term commitment to action,” Abrams wrote this week. “I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly Black voters, are willing to endure the hardships of boycotts. But I don’t think that’s necessary — yet.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also cautioned against calls to boycott the Atlanta-based companies.

“I am deeply concerned about the boycott and potentially, the unintended consequences that it could have on everyday working people,” Bottoms said Thursday afternoon. “At the end of the day, when you boycott these companies, you’re boycotting jobs for our community. Delta is one of our largest employers in the state, and many of those people live right here in Atlanta.”

Staff writer Shaddi Abusaid contributed to this article.