People For the American Way

Lifting Up Our Voices for Voting Rights: People For, Clergy, and Alyssa Milano Protest at White House

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Lifting Up Our Voices for Voting Rights: People For, Clergy, and Alyssa Milano Protest at White House

We said we’d be back.

On October 19, People For the American Way, the League of Women Voters of the United States, and the Declaration for American Democracy, alongside clergy, young elected officials, and coalition partners, escalated demands for the White House to act on voting rights without delay in an action that resulted in the arrests of 25 participants.

Danton Whitley and members of the Baltimore Urban Inspiration Choir performed at the Voting Rights Now! event on October 19, 2021.

Danton Whitley and members of the Baltimore Urban Inspiration Choir performed as part of our demonstration, both on the way to the White House and as onlookers watched 25 brave activists – including People For President Ben Jealous, Executive Vice President Marge Baker, and board members Rabbi David Saperstein and Alyssa Milano – face arrest.

People For Board Member Alyssa Milano rallies up the crowd protesting for voting rights in front of the White House on October 19, 2021, shortly before her arrest.
People For Board Member Alyssa Milano rallies up the crowd protesting for voting rights in front of the White House on October 19, 2021, shortly before her arrest.
People For President Ben Jealous returned to risk arrest for voting rights in front of the White House on October 19, 2021.
People For President Ben Jealous returned to risk arrest for voting rights in front of the White House on October 19, 2021.
25 activists were arrested in front of the White House while protesting for voting rights on October 19, 2021.
25 activists were arrested in front of the White House while protesting for voting rights on October 19, 2021. 

“What we know is that when a minority is able to hold up a majority of the Senate, the only way you get through is when the President says get the rules out of the way and get it done – and that’s exactly what we need from President Biden,” said People For President Ben Jealous.

People For board member Alyssa Milano explained what’s at stake: More than 425 anti-voter bills have been introduced nationwide this year alone.

Rabbi David Saperstein spoke about how he’s known President Joe Biden for 40 years, and that’s how he knows that the President should understand precisely why voting rights deserves the full attention of the White House.

People For President Ben Jealous returned to risk arrest for voting rights in front of the White House on October 19, 2021.
Voting rights cannot wait, People For President Ben Jealous tells the crowd in front of the White House.
People For Board Member Alyssa Milano rallies up the crowd protesting for voting rights in front of the White House on October 19, 2021, shortly before her arrest.
“Show me what democracy looks like,” Alyssa Milano called to the crowd in front of the White House. They chanted back “This is what democracy looks like!”
The final group of five out of 25 activists speak to police immediately before their arrest in front of the White House while protesting for voting rights on October 19, 2021.
The final group of five out of 25 activists speak to police immediately before their arrest in front of the White House while protesting for voting rights on October 19, 2021.

You can watch the full event here:

The very next day, Senate Republicans again blocked debate on the Freedom to Vote Act. This is why we need President Biden to act without delay to get the Senate to fix or nix the filibuster and protect our vote.

On October 22, Rachel Maddow did a short news piece on this direct action at the White House, aimed at pressuring lawmakers into doing more to defend the freedom to vote.

Before the arrests on October 19, faith leaders, local and state representatives, and national civil rights leaders explained why they were there that day, and why taking direct action right now is so important in the face of Republican obstruction.

“We are doing what we are doing to send a message: At the fundamental core of anything that we do, of everything that is legislated, is our right to vote,” said People For board member Rev. Timothy McDonald.

People For board member Alyssa Milano explained that with 425 bills having been proposed in state legislatures this year alone to suppress the vote, she knew she had to get involved.

Radio host Joe Madison remembers when LBJ told Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to make him pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He did. And now, it’s on us to protect our vote.

President Biden needs to put everything he has into passing the Freedom to Vote Act and protecting the right to vote or our democracy is lost, warns The Workers Circle’s Ann Toback.

Shortly before walking to the White House, Jana Morgan, Director of Declaration for American Democracy, spoke about how the freedom to vote is the bedrock of our democracy.

GA State Rep. Bee Nguyen, a member of our Young Elected Officials Network, spoke about how hard Georgia worked to get President Joe Biden elected – and now it’s time for him to protect Georgia’s voters from the outrageous voter suppression measures passed there this year.

Noelle Damico, Director of Social Justice at The Workers Circle, explained that she again risked arrest for voting rights because she’s fighting for every voter who’s ever been disenfranchised.

Reverend Mark Thompson spoke about how he was there to risk arrest to raise awareness of the harm the filibuster is causing to our democracy.

Keith Silver, co-founder of Washington DC MLK Peacewalk, spoke about the breadth of this collective effort to preserve voting rights.

Immediately after her arrest, Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of League of Women Voters of the U.S., spoke about how she believes that our democracy is in danger if we don’t pass voting rights without delay.

Want to get involved in the next stage of the fight? Sign up here to receive updates on the campaign and RSVP for our event on November 3 here!