These members of Congress are keeping the pressure on the Senate over voting rights – even if it means arrest

  • Four Black US representatives have been arrested during demonstrations supporting voting rights.
  • They are calling for an end to the filibuster in the Senate so that voting rights can be passed in the upper chamber.
  • Activists and religious leaders have also been arrested during the various demonstrations.
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Over the last few months, Black US Representatives have been applying pressure on their counterparts in the Senate to pass sweeping voting rights laws. Many of those protesting have been arrested as they seek to send a message.

On Tuesday, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act passed in the House of Representatives, but it's unlikely to move in the US Senate, where 60 votes are needed to bypass a filibuster.

An additional bill, the For the People Act, passed in the House in March but was killed in the Senate in June.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act focuses on restoring the Voting Rights Act that was gutted following two major Supreme Court decisions. The For the People Act focuses on making it easier to vote in a federal election, reforms campaign finance laws, and is meant to protect US elections from foreign interference. If passed, the institutional changes would begin to take place by the 2022 midterm elections.

The members of Congress organizing and participating in the actions have invoked the legacy of the late Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who passed in July 2020.

Lewis held a crucial role in the passage of voting rights during the Civil Rights movement. Lewis, alongside activist Hosea Williams, organized a peaceful demonstration in support of voting rights. Nearly 60 of 600 attendees were injured - Lewis suffered from a fractured skull. The demonstration was named Bloody Sunday.

As of August, GOP lawmakers across a total of 17 states have passed over 28 bills tightening access to the ballot box, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. At the federal level, Republicans are continuing to mount a legislative strategy of blocking voting rights legislation, after Trump and his allies in office attempted to overturn the 2020 election results based on lies.

A demonstration outside the Capitol earlier in August "centered on voting rights, immigration reform, a $15 an hour federal minimum wage and eliminating the Senate filibuster that has stymied passage of related federal legislation" and led to over 200 arrests, according to Religion News.

Here are the lawmakers who have been arrested this year protesting for voting rights:

Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio
Rep. Joyce Beatty taken into custody during demonstration on July 15, 2021
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio is taken into custody by U.S. Capitol Police officers in the Hart Senate Office Building, after a demonstration supporting voting rights, July 15, 2021, in Washington.

Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio was arrested by Capitol Police on July 15, while leading a demonstration advocating for voting rights at a Senate office building.

Beatty chairs the Congressional Black Caucus and called for passage of the For the People Act as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

"I stand in solidarity with Black women and allies across the country in defense of our constitutional right to vote. We have come too far and fought too hard to see everything systematically dismantled and restricted by those who wish to silence us," Rep. Beatty said in a statement after her arrest. "Be assured that this is just the beginning. This is Our Power, Our Message."

 

 

Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia
Rep. Hank Johnson speaks in support of voting rights behind platform at rally.
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., speaks during a rally for voting rights, at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, Saturday, July 17, 2021.

Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia has attended multiple demonstrations in support of voting rights at the Capitol, and he was arrested at a demonstration on July 22.

Following his arrest, he tweeted: "@BlackCaucus I was arrested today protesting against Senate inaction on voting rights legislation & filibuster reform. In the spirit of my dear friend and mentor – the late Congressman John Lewis – I was getting in #goodtrouble."

 

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is taken into custody at demonstration on July 29, 2021.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) (2nd L) is arrested by a member of U.S. Capitol Police as she participates in a civil disobedience during a protest outside Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. Black women voting rights leaders and allies took part in a “Day of Action on Capitol Hill” event calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the For the People Act and end the filibuster.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas was the third Black member of Congress to be arrested at a similar action supporting voting rights on July 29 outside of the Hart Senate Office Building.

"Any action that is a peaceful action of civil disobedience is worthy and more, to push all of us to do better," Jackson said in a video posted to Twitter after her arrest.

 

 

 

Rep. Al Green of Texas
Rep. Al Green of Texas
Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, speaks during the "Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks" protest against racism and police brutality, on August 28, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Rep. Al Green, who has long taken part in various civil rights protests, was arrested at a voting rights demonstration alongside Texas lawmakers on August 3.

Rep. Green posted a video on Twitter next to Democratic Texas state Rep. Ron Reynolds as they were both arrested by Capitol Police. His caption "Good trouble, necessary trouble," lends homage to one of John Lewis' famous sayings.

 

 

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