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Protesters gathered outside of the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse Saturday to voice their displeasure about the Tuscaloosa County Jail's response to COVID-19.

This comes after the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sued Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy for violating the Alabama Open Records Act by withholding information about the spread of COVID-19 in the Tuscaloosa County Jail.

"Tuscaloosa needs to know that Sheriff Abernathy is endangering all of the community because he is refusing to release the data and information to our local officials to make smart and healthy decisions about the state of our community," said protest organizer and Tuscaloosa resident Maggie Yancey.

Organizers said that local residents have spoken out about malpractice at the jail, asserting that inmates are having to reuse dirty masks, including the masks of people who later contracted COVID-19.

"There's a lot of people who have had just these terrible experiences in the jail, in terms of the safety there and the spread of the COVID there and we don't know how bad it is, we don't know the data," protest organizer Mike Altman said. "...The ideal outcome is the jail is safer and there's less people in it. [The jail] practices the CDC recommendations that are out there, the recommendations that were sent by various Civil Rights groups to the National Sheriffs Association that are included in our petition to make the jail safe and to reduce the number of people in there. There should be an overcrowded jail in the middle of a pandemic."

According to the SPLC lawsuit, the non-profit organization made multiple requests to Abernathy which had not been fulfilled as of Sept. 24. The organization is now asking Circuit Judge John Henry England, Jr. to force Abernathy to disclose the documents to the public.

"We're hopeful we'll receive the records without having to continue the lawsuit, but Sheriff Abernathy has not yet produced them," SPLC Staff Attorney Alexandra Jordan said in a statement. "As to the protest, we are not sponsoring it, though we have shared the Facebook event via SPLC social media. Our purpose in requesting and suing for the records was to ensure that Tuscaloosa residents have the information they need to hold their elected officials accountable for protecting their loved ones inside and outside the jail. The sponsors of this event are doing that, and we stand in solidarity with them."

Stay connected to The Tuscaloosa Thread for more updates. Watch the entire protest below:

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