By Deborah Bailey
We’re halfway through the summer, but the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and other key legislation supporting working Americans and people of color is stalled in Congress. The national Poor People’s Campaign is rallying Americans to speak up and ensure Congress passes key legislation to protect voting rights, abolish Washington gridlock and end low wage employment before the end of the summer term.
“We are launching a season of nonviolent moral direct action and civil disobedience to demand four things by Aug. 6,” said William J. Barber II, National co-chair of the Poor People’s campaign. “Number one: End the filibuster; pass all provisions of the For the People Act; restore all provisions of the 1964 Voting Rights Act and expand it; and raise the Federal Minimum Wage to $15 an hour,” Barber bellowed before a crowd of supporters on the steps of the Supreme Court on July 12.
“I lost my job, I lost my insurance, I lost my health care. It is simply evil that health insurance is tied to a job in the richest nation of the world,” added Linell Stokes Fall, Baltimore member of the Poor People’s Campaign.
Fall, who became ill with COVID-19 and severe pneumonia, urged others who experienced hardship during the coronavirus pandemic to get involved with this summer’s Poor People’s Campaign activities.
“They know that sick people vote less. They want us sick. Denial of health care is voter suppression. This is why we need a season of non-violent moral direct action now,” Fall urged.
“Folks didn’t recognize our right to vote because we asked nicely,” continued Fall. “We’re warning the Senate today, but we’ll be back next week, and we won’t be asking nicely,” she said.
Roz Pelles, attorney and veteran human rights worker, announced the first of the Poor People’s Campaign summer actions, the “Women’s Moral March on Washington,” on Monday, July 19.
“Attacks on voting rights deny women a voice in democracy. Women are demanding the end to the filibuster, the restoration and expansion of voting rights and an end to the filibuster,” Pelles said.
One-hundred women from organizations representing a diverse coalition of women across the nation will join local people in the D.M.V. in a March on Washington in order to release “our demands of today are in the Spirit of the Seneca Falls Convention,” Pelles said.
“The women are coming to Washington, D.C. and to your states across this country,” Pelles emphasized.
More than 25 national organizations have joined the Poor People’s Campaign for their summer non-violent direct action campaign strategy at a time when at least 17 states have passed new restrictive voting rights legislation, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
Texas is the latest state involved in a dramatic fight over voting rights legislation that would further restrict access to the polls. At least 51 Democratic members of the Texas State Legislature walked out of the chambers of the body’s special session Monday and headed to Washington, D.C. on a charter flight, after refusing to vote on a bill banning 24-hour voting locations and eliminating drive-through voting.
President Biden also weighed in on efforts to restrict voting rights at both the state level and through recent U.S. Supreme Court Decisions as he spoke to the nation from Philadelphia this Tuesday.
The U.S. Justice Department has announced it is suing the State of Georgia over restrictive voting legislation passed in March, but activists contend recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions passed on the final day of the Court’s 2021 session in June gutted many provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
“This is no ordinary moment,” Barber said to the crowd gathered on Monday in response to current events. “This is why we must escalate and why we must engage,” he ended.
Another Poor People’s Campaign summer protest will be held July 26, with representatives from the Poor People’s Campaign and advocates from 45 states engaging in non-violent direct action in all U.S. Senate Offices. On August 2, low-wage workers and clergy will lead the non-violent direct action at Senate offices to emphasize the need to pass higher federal minimum wage legislation.
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