On yesterday’s Thom Hartmann program, Palast spoke to Hartmann about his new film, Vigilante, and the vigilante vote challenges it exposes. Palast also reveals, that while Georgia may be the only state with a law that allows a single person to challenge the rights of an unlimited number of voters, in other states Republican activists are getting around this by filing thousands of single challenges. This raises the possibility that we could see mass voter challenges on Election Day, or the day after when mail-in votes are being tabulated. Palast cautions everyone to go to the polling station prepared with photo ID, utility bills, and something that shows your address. Bottom line: If you’re challenged, it’s important to challenge the challengers. You can learn all about this in Palast’s new film, Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman — which is FREE to stream for a limited time. But if you think these vigilante vote challenges are limited to Georgia, think again. As Americans we ALL need to be vigilant.
Thom Hartmannn: On the line with us is our old buddy Greg Palast, the world famous — I mean that literally — investigative journalist. If you go over to GregPalast.com right now, over on the right hand side of his homepage, there’s a little ad that says “Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman — stream it for free for a limited time.” Greg, welcome back. Tell us about this.
Greg Palast: Okay…And Thom…you’re in the credits, because without you this film would not have happened. But, right now, Jamie Foxx, the actor, has put up funds so that we can have a national free virtual screening online. Starting today, for the next two days, it’s free. Just go to VigilanteMovie.com — thank you Jamie Fox! And of course, thank you to our executive producers, Martin Sheen, George DiCaprio, and Stephen Nemeth. And to Maria Florio, our producer — she got the Academy Award for Best Documentary already. She says this will be number two. It’s a movie, but you know what? Even though the subtitle is “Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman”, anyone who thinks that this is just about Georgia, I’m sorry you haven’t been listening to the Hartmann Program…This is the history if crushing votes.
Hartmannn: So, why the word vigilante?
Palast: Because Brian Kemp, he’s the putative Governor of Georgia going for his rematch against Stacey Abrams. He signed a bill last year, SB202 or Jim Crow 2.0 as the NAACP calls it, which allows anyone to challenge an unlimited number of other voters. So, in other words, self-appointed vigilantes. And in the film, we even have one guy who likes to dress up like a vigilante. You can laugh, but he happens to be the Chairman of the Republican Party in Columbus, Georgia, and close to Kemp on his state committee. This is a real Republican power. He puts on his six guns — loaded by the way — and challenged 4,000 people, especially soldiers from Fort Benning, which is in Columbus. Including, retired Major Gamaliel Turner, who is in the film. You get to meet his family.
He’s assigned to California, he’s working on a new weapon for Ukraine, Major Turner, and they challenge his vote, saying you’re not a Georgia citizen anymore. Just because he’s a soldier assigned to another military base, they refused to send him his absentee ballot. 4,000 people in Muscogee County lost their votes to this Republican mass challenge. It got no coverage, except you’ll see it in our film. And the other crazy woman who chases me out of her house with her automatic weapons, she challenged 32,000 voters. We have a list, by the way, of 168,000 voters challenged by these self-appointed, vigilante vote theft hunters. And it’s devastating, because you have to go into an office to restore your vote.
It’s the story of these people, but also of history. The point is that you’re going into the history of other vigilantes. They used to call themselves the Ku Klux Klan, now they dress up in different ways. They’re Civil War reenacters, or our guy who likes to dress like a vigilante, like Doc Holliday, who you’ll find out in the film, gunned down Black men in cold blood while they were bathing.
Hartmannn: Whoa, tell me that story.
Palast: Well, what happened is Doc Holliday, who was a Georgian, who’s portrayed by the Republican Party Chairman, right after the Civil War there were union troops bathing in his local watering hole, and he didn’t like it that they were Black soldiers, so he literally gunned them down while they were in the water. That’s why he headed out to the Oklahoma territory. This [Republican Chairman] likes to dress like him. Understand, they know they can’t wear white sheets anymore. But if you just think, oh, it’s a nut case, think again! There are 88 of these vigilantes — every single one is a GOP activist official, usually high ranking official — who are making these challenges, overwhelmingly to black voters and young voters.
Like I said, it’s 168,000, but it’s spreading. In the Georgia law, it says you can put in an unlimited number of voter challenges. This one woman, literally, handed in a thumb drive because it was too expensive to list 32,000 people. By the way, in the film, I showed her the names and photos of people that she challenged, saying that they are not Georgians. I said, they’re your neighbors. Did you call them? Did you go to their houses? Did you notify them? No! They got this all from that group, True the vote in Texas, the one that came out with 2000 Mules. They’re the ones who came up with these lists of voters to challenge, and it’s up to the voters to save their vote. So, you see that in film…And today, we’ll have a story out in Black Gwinnett Magazine about how it was Brian Kemp’s family that brought the first enslaved Africans to Georgia.
Hartmannn: That’s amazing story.
Palast: But it’s an important story because, remember, the Governor signed another bill saying you can’t teach Critical Race Theory, or as the bill says, you can’t teach “divisive history”.
Hartmannn: So, pretty much, you can’t teach the history of Brian Kemp’s family in Georgia in the public schools.
Palast: You got it, you got it!
Hartmannn: So, in Georgia, you’ve got 168,000 people who have been challenged and they are not gonna be able to vote this week?
Palast: Well, okay, it’s gonna be a battle. And by the way, under this new law, they can challenge you and there’s a big fear from some law professors that there’s going to be a mass challenge on Election Day or literally the day after to mail in ballots. And so we know it’s at least 168,000 people on the list. Our work has done quite a bit, because a member of the Gwinnett County Board rejected 31,000 challenges. They said that they had read my material, so they’re understanding that there’s no question that it’s a targeting of African Americans.
Hartmannn: We’re talking with investigative reporter Greg Palast about his new movie
Palast: You can always donate if you want, but there’s no charge. And the important thing is that you get this history. It is a movie…You can eat popcorn. You might choke on your popcorn a couple times, by either laughing or literally because it’s devastating.
Hartmannn: You can stream it at home on your TV…So, Greg, has this vigilante effort — you know, anyone can challenge tens of thousands of voters in Georgia — has this spread or begun to spread to other states? Has ALEC taken this up yet as model legislation?
Palast: Well, let’s put it this way, I just got a call from the election supervisor in Houston, Texas, that’s Harris County, asking if he can show the film to his entire staff, because they are preparing for mass vigilante challenges on Election Day, and so he’s using it to train his staff. And now in Cook County, several elections supervisors [have done the same]. I don’t wanna make it sound like it’s some kind of dry educational film, they just want to be able to get the attention of their staff.
Hartmannn: It’s a brilliant film…It’s a drama as much as a documentary. It’s brilliantly made. You’ve got great production values, you’ve got actual Hollywood stars…
Palast: Rosario Dawson is narrating, you can’t do better. But the thing is that, yes, they’re expecting these mass challenges in Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and I think Alabama, I’ll have to check. Bloomberg has reported that it’s now spread to 10 states, but I think our count is getting up to 15, we don’t know [how high it will be] by Election Day. Because, while only Georgia is the testing ground for this law that says you can challenge an unlimited number of voters, what these people are doing is they’re simply filling out thousands of single sheets. That’s what I’m seeing now in Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin.
And, by the way people, please, there are vigilantes out there. It’s not just a joke, and not just some nut case in a cowboy hat with pearl-handled guns. They can challenge you. Please bring your utility bill, photo ID, something with your current address [when you go to vote]. And if you’re in places like Wisconsin, there’s same day registration. They may not tell you that. They may say, Okay, you’ve been challenged. Say, Okay, let me reregister right now. It’s down to the wire in Wisconsin. In the film we talk about the billionaire Bradley family, the new Kochs, funding this purge and attack on voters. They are based in Milwaukee and they’re using their powers in Milwaukee to try to knock off voters there, Black voters and student voters in Madison.
Hartmannn: Amazing stuff. Vigilante is the new film, and you can watch it for free today and tomorrow, so check it out. Greg, thanks a lot for dropping by and thanks so much for making this brilliant movie.
Vigilante: Georgia’s Voter Suppression Hitman — written by Greg Palast and narrated by Rosario Dawson — exposes the most brazen, racist attack on voting rights yet. The film is produced by Academy Award-winner Maria Florio, with executive producers Martin Sheen, George DiCaprio and Stephen Nemeth, and was directed by David Ambrose, who previously worked with Palast on the film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
Writer, editor, photographer, videographer, social media consultant, and tactivist (tactical activist), Nicole Powers uses art and technology to share ideas that make the world a better place.