UNION SPRINGS, AL (WSFA) - The "No Closings Caravan" began it's journey Thursday across Alabama's poor Black Belt region to protest the closing of 31 satellite driver's license offices after state budget cuts. The journey started in Union Springs before moving on to Tuskegee and hitting three other Black Belt counties later in the afternoon.
Gov. Robert Bentley recently announced he would reopen the closed locations, but only for a single day each month. State Senator Hank Sanders (D-Selma) said that is not good enough, adding there is "no economic reason" to close down the driver's license locations.
Bentley claims the DMV closings were a business decision and the result of a lack of revenue from the legislative sessions. That argument does not hold much water with Sanders. He says the legislature passed a driver's license fee increase of $12.50 to make sure no locations would be forced to close.
The Caravan received support from state and local lawmakers. Sen. Bill Beasley (D-Clayton) and others joined in with their support, hoping to see the driver's license offices reopen in their areas. Most people at the different rallies just wanted their voices to be heard.
"If we come together and we stick together the governor has to hear us, and if he doesn't hear us that lets us know he is not concerned about us, " said Minnie Austin, president of the Macon County chapter of the NAACP.
Sanders said the caravan is a chance to make a stand. "If we don't stop this, they will be closing down other things. So we have to draw a line in the sand right now," he said.
Sanders also received support from famed Civil Rights attorney Fred Gray who said a movement like this can help promote change, as was the case with the Montgmery Bus Boycott. Grey, who represented Rosa Parks, was a little disheartened at the lack of progress made by the state in the years between.
"I had hoped that in some point in time that Alabama would become progressive and that they would do the right thing for the right reasons. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to that point," Grey said," before adding, "but there is still hope."
Thursday was just the first day of the tour. The caravan will hit six more Black Belt counties Friday.