TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - The Southern Christian Leadership Conference announced a protest march will happen Sunday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. around the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.
SCLC national President Charles Steele said the march is the result of communications between he and Tuscaloosa VA Director John Merkle breaking down two weeks ago. Some black employees there are calling for fair hiring practices and transparency in job openings.
They held a rally outside the VA on Labor Day making some of these same allegations earlier this month. Steele is also calling for Merkle to be removed from his position there.
“Were coming to shut the VA down.” Steele said during Thursday’s announcement. “I’ve been trying to resolve this matter, but we’ve got to take it to another level. And we’re going to resolve it now by exposing racism.”
Steele says this will be a peaceful protest. They are not out to damage property or incite violence. The goal is to give a voice to those who need to be heard.
This is the official response from Tuscaloosa VAMC:
"Tuscaloosa VAMC has asked SCLC multiple times for details regarding the issues it is alleging, and outside of less than ten routine personnel complaints—most of which have already been resolved or are unsubstantiated—SCLC refuses to provide any specifics.
Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center stands ready to look into any of these issues right away, but so far SCLC cannot provide details that would allow us to do that.
The Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center is proud of its diverse and inclusive culture, and the facility does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. In fact, two-thirds of its workforce is made up of minorities, including its Associate Director."