Rev. Sharpton voices opposition to consolidation at rally

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Reverend Al Sharpton voiced opposition to consolidation, the highly divisive issue that is on Tuesday's ballot.

"We're in a fight, aren't we?" Sharpton asked the crowd at a political rally Thursday.

Sharpton defended his trip to Memphis.

"When I hear all these people talk about why are you interested in a local issue? It is always a local issue that has national ramifications," said Sharpton. "Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus was a local Montgomery issue, but it changed national segregation laws."

Sharpton spoke against opposition, which he called a national trend. He said the version currently on the table is unfair to Memphis and the inner city.

"Everybody only require you to put up your charter," said Sharpton. "If you're the only one to put up your charter, that's not consolidation, that's co-option. We know the difference between consolidation and co-option. We know the difference between when you make the decisions, we lose the power to have specific protections over our jobs."

Sharpton and host AFSCME argued that consolidation would eliminate jobs, eradicate public services, dilute power and rob the African American community of proper representation.

"We cannot ever give up our voice," said Lee Saunders with the AFSCME. "We can't do that. We cannot ever give up our vote. We fought too hard to have a say in our communities to throw them away."

The opposition to consolidation characterized the issue as a fight between the haves and the have nots.

"You got big business on the one side, labor and civil rights on the other. That ought to tell you something," said Sharpton. "I would hope you stand up not forefeit the Riggs for representation and to make sure that you have job security."

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.