Black church leaders push for Home Depot boycott over Georgia voting law

Pastor agrees boycott may impact workers but is ‘necessary evil’ that has to take place for ‘good to happen’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 20 April 2021 19:52 BST
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Related video: Ilhan Omar compares boycotts over Georgia voter suppression law to those that ended apartheid in South Africa

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Black leaders representing more than 1,000 churches in Georgia called for a boycott of Home Depot after the corporation has neglected to push back on the state’s new voting law.

The coalition is led by Bishop Reginald Jackson who supervises all 534 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia.

The Tuesday call for a boycott is one of the first larger moves to impose economic sanctions on companies to force them to express their displeasure at the Republican legislative push around the US to enact voting restrictions.

Mr Jackson told The New York Times that “we don’t believe this is simply a political matter”.

“This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote,” he added.

The bishop argued that Home Depot “demonstrated an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out in opposition to this legislation”.

Mr Jackson added in a statement on Tuesday: “If you as corporate leaders do not believe and lack the courage to speak out against this legislation, we will not spend our money to purchase your products.”

Home Depot, whose headquarters is in Georgia, said in a statement earlier this month that “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure”.

When The Independent reached out, a spokesperson for the company said they didn’t have an update on the statement but that they continue to “support broad voter participation” and that they “work to ensure our associates in Georgia and across the country have the information and resources to vote”. 

Some Democrats and advocacy groups have hesitated to support boycotts as they worry about their effects on a company’s workers.

Leaders of the coalition to boycott Home Depot noted that boycotts were used in the civil rights movement and that their call for new action was meant to be a “warning shot” towards other state legislatures pondering similar laws.

The Reverend Timothy McDonald III told The New York Times: “This is not just a Georgia issue. We’re talking about democracy in America that is under threat.”

The Atlanta pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church said: “We’ve got to use whatever leverage and power, spiritual fortitude that we have, including our dollars, to help people to understand that this is a national campaign.”

Governor Brian Kemp said on Twitter that the boycott was “absolutely ridiculous”.

He added: “The left will do whatever it takes to cancel anyone who doesn’t agree with their political agenda. They went after baseball, and now they’re going after American jobs. But I’m not backing down.”

Church leaders want Home Deport to take four specific actions. They want the company to speak out against the Georgia voting law, publicly oppose similar bills elsewhere, support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress, and back litigation against the Georgia law.

The executive director of the state chapter of watchdog Common Cause, Aunna Dennis, told The New York Times: “I can’t fully support a boycott within Georgia. The boycott hurts the working-class person. But corporations do need to be held accountable on where they put their dollars.”

Pastor Jamal Bryant of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia east of Atlanta, told the paper: “It is unfortunate for those who will be impacted by this, but how many more [millions] will be impacted if they don’t have the right to vote?”

Dr Bryant added: “This is a necessary evil. But it has to happen in order for the good to happen.”

The pastor added at a press conference on Tuesday: “This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue; this is a moral issue.

“We are telling Home Depot: it is always the right time to do the right thing.”

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