BY HANNAH LESTER
Alabama’s mayors are asking for citizens to vote “yes” on Aniah’s Law.
Aniah Blanchard was kidnapped from Auburn, Alabama, in 2019. She was 19 years old and attending Southern Union State Community College when she was murdered by her kidnapper.
“The fall in Auburn is a beautiful time,” said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. “There’s new students, there’s lots of excitement, there’s football games, there’s relationships, there’s classes and it’s been a great fall here in Auburn. But this fall should have included Aniah Blanchard as well.
“Three years ago, Aniah Blanchard was simply going to the convenience store to get a late-night snack, and she was kidnapped and her life was taken by someone who had no business being out of jail, much less being in Auburn.”
Aniah’s Law is something Alabama mayors are pushing for to allow judges to keep violent offenders from being granted bail.
“On Nov. 8 the citizens of Alabama have their chance to do something about this by voting for Amendment 1, you will allow judges to keep violent offenders in jail, and so in the future we will not have Aniah Blanchard stories to remember,” Anders said.
The mayors from Alabama’s 10 biggest cities gathered for their quarterly meeting Monday morning in Auburn and, as part of that meeting, discussed Aniah’s Law.
“Public safety is our No. 1 responsibility,” said Mobile Mayor and Chairman of the Alabama Big 10 Mayors Group Sandy Stimpson.
Stimpson said that since 2019, the mayors have been working toward changing the state constitution in Alabama.
“It really all started because of a judge challenging one of our police chiefs, saying, ‘If you want us to do something differently, you need to change the state constitution,’” Stimpson said. “What that implied was that we had to go create an amendment, and we were able to do that through representative Chip Brown from Mobile.”
Around this time, Aniah’s death also fueled the fight for change.
“[This will] give judges the option of denying pre-trial bail to the most violent of offenders to keep them from [being] released where they would possibly re-offend,” Stimpson said. “This is something that we know, as we look across this state, that will make a huge impact, but it also gives us an opportunity for that judge to understand this is something that the citizens of Alabama expect them to do in order to protect our citizens.”
Aniah’s family was present for the press conference and given the chance to speak; they urged citizens to vote for Aniah’s Law.
“We don’t want [others] to feel the same pain I felt when I woke up on Oct. 24 and my sister was missing, so please vote on Nov. 8, Amendment One,” said Elijah Blanchard Jr., Aniah’s brother.
The day before the conference was the three-year anniversary of Aniah’s kidnapping.
“First of all, I’d like to thank everybody for coming and I most definitely want to thank the ones that actually support this bill,” said Aniah’s father, Elijah Blanchard Sr. “Our life, on Oct. 24, will never be the same, when we got a phone call. And to prevent any other parents [from getting] the same phone call, we would like you guys to acknowledge the fact that this bill will change [things] … so other parents will not have to go through the same tragedy that we did.”
Elijah Sr. said the law is about prevention and not only their family.
“So, please, on Nov. 8, vote yes on Amendment One because we are the ones who can make a change,” he said. “And a change is what we need.”
Walt Harris, Aniah’s stepfather, said the law will save lives and future pain for others.
“We need your votes,” he said. “Get out there. Make your statement known. Let these offenders know we won’t take it anymore. Stand up, take back the safety of these streets. And thank you for everybody, thank you all for your efforts.”