Faith leaders, local and state representatives, national civil rights leaders arrested in series of actions calling on the Biden administration to protect the freedom to vote
Watch the live streamed recording of the demonstration here.
Washington, DC — Voting rights activists escalated demands for the White House to act on voting rights today, in an action that resulted in the arrests of 25 participants.
The action comes on the eve of an anticipated vote in the Senate on the Freedom to Vote Act, and follows a previous demonstration at the White House on Oct. 5 at which five activists were arrested.
Today’s action was led by People For the American Way, the League of Women Voters of the United States, and the Declaration for American Democracy. Participants called on President Biden to use the influence of his office to get the Freedom to Vote Act passed in the Senate. Danton Whitley and members of the Baltimore Urban Inspiration Choir performed at the event.
Participants arrested during today’s action included:
- Ben Jealous, People For the American Way
- Jana Morgan, Declaration for American Democracy
- Virginia Kase Solomón, League of Women Voters
- Alyssa Milano, board member, People For the American Way
- Rabbi David Saperstein, board member, People For the American Way
- Marge Baker, People For the American Way
- Rev. Jamal Bryant, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church
- Tami Sawyer, Commissioner, Shelby County, TN
- Noelle Damico, The Workers Circle
- Ann Toback, The Workers Circle
- Bee Nguyen, Georgia state representative
- Rev. Mark Thompson, civil rights activist
- Andi Pringle, March One
- Cindy Battles, GA Coalition for The People’s Agenda
- Laurie Woodward Garcia, Broward for Progress
- Barbara Harris, Broward for Progress
- Jennifer Lamson, Democracy Initiative
- Rev. Charles Williams, Historic King Solomon Baptist Church of Detroit
- Christina Harvey, Stand Up America
- Charly Carter, Democracy Initiative
- Joseph Geevarghese, Our Revolution
- Reverend Derrick Rice, Sankofa United Church of Christ
- Reverend Fer-Rell M. Malone, Sr.,Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
- Keith Silver, Washington DC MLK Peacewalk
- Sam Riddle, Michigan National Action Network
QUOTES FROM PARTICIPANTS:
“We came back to the White House to deliver a clear message to President Biden: we need actions that match the urgency of his words on voting rights – and time is running out. The Freedom to Vote Act has to pass now if we are going to protect voting rights in the next election for all of us: for Black voters and Brown voters, for women, for younger voters and older voters, voters with disabilities and working people of all backgrounds. The president needs to step up, or voting rights will die on his watch,” said Ben Jealous, president of People For the American Way.
“On the eve of a critical Senate vote to advance the Freedom to Vote Act, we need President Biden to increase his pressure on the Senate to ensure this bill can become law. We are running out of time and the American people are counting on our president to protect our freedom to vote. Today’s action sent a strong message to the White House and we will continue to come back until we see President Biden take real action to secure voting rights protections,” said Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States.
“No matter where we live or what our background is, we all deserve a fair say in the big issues that affect our lives. If Senate Republicans use the filibuster loophole to block even having a debate on transformative voting rights legislation, President Biden must use his bully pulpit to call on the Senate to do whatever is necessary to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and protect equal access to the ballot box. The Declaration for American Democracy coalition is proud to stand with People for the American Way and League of Women Voters to demand our freedom to vote. We won’t rest until we achieve a democracy that works for all of us,” said Jana Morgan, director of the Declaration for American Democracy.
“John Lewis told us, ‘The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.’ States across the country are trying to take it away from so many people in a cynical power grab. We can’t let them. We need federal law right now to protect voting rights for all Americans, no matter which state they happen to live in. It’s a cause that’s worth getting arrested for,” said activist and People For board member Alyssa Milano.
“In the face of injustice, God tells us, in Lev. 19, ‘Do not stand idly by.’ Recognizing that those who fail to act in this moment when our democracy is imperiled will be held accountable if it falters, we gather together today to prod President Biden to use the full power of the presidency to mobilize the nation and the Congress to press for voting rights protection and be prepared to reform the filibuster,” said Rabbi David Saperstein.
“We are coming to Washington from Georgia because democracy is being attacked and voting rights are under siege. The black church has always lifted our voice, and this isn’t the time to have laryngitis,” said Rev. Jamal Bryant, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
“President Biden has been saying the right words about voting rights – now it’s time for action. We expect a critically important vote in the Senate on the Freedom to Vote Act tomorrow. This is the moment when the president must bring all his influence to bear on Senate Democrats to not only support the Act, but to do whatever is necessary to pass this critical legislation. It’s now or never, and that’s why we have faith leaders, local officials, and national civil rights leaders who are willing to risk their own freedom here today to send this message to the White House. Without the freedom to vote, few other freedoms are meaningful in our democracy,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way.
“At the Workers Circle, protecting our democracy is our highest priority. Without the freedom for every American to cast their vote and have it counted, the liberties and rights that drew our Eastern European Jewish immigrant founders to the United States and which continue to protect us all can be lost. President Biden must immediately use the full power of his presidency to get the Freedom to Vote Act passed through the Senate. He must not let the filibuster stand in the way of protecting our voting rights. Failure of the President and Senate to act now will mean millions of voters in 2022 will be faced with state-sponsored obstacles in accessing the polls and having their ballots counted,” said Ann Toback, CEO of The Workers Circle.
“Jewish tradition exhorts us to not stand idly by in the face of injustice, but commands that we must intervene; we must interfere. Today we risk being locked up because too many Americans are being locked out of our democracy. We call on President Biden to use the full power of his office to get Congress to stop voter suppression in its tracks and prevent it from happening by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act now,” said Noelle Damico, director of social justice at The Workers Circle.
“They tell us to hold on and be patient. How long must we wait? State legislatures aren’t waiting, governors aren’t waiting. Voter suppression bills are moving fast from Michigan to Mississippi. Suppressing my vote is a challenge to our democracy as we know it. We will stand and we will continue to challenge these politicians no matter the party. I’m doing what John Lewis would do, ‘getting in good trouble.’ Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act now!” said Rev. Charles Williams, Chair of the National Action Network Michigan, and Pastor, Historic King Solomon Baptist Church of Detroit.
“The vote is how we make an impact in our communities. It is our voice. When politicians try to limit the vote, they limit who has power in their communities and a voice in their government. We will continue to defend everyone’s right to vote with whatever power we have. We urge the President to do the same. As our Executive Director, Helen Butler, has said multiple times over the last few months: ‘This is our Selma moment.’ It is our hope that the president and Congress are with us and willing to take action to protect our democracy,” said Cindy Battles, Policy & Engagement Director for the GA Coalition for the People’s Agenda.
“We need to pass federal voting rights protection now — and we’re here to urge the president and Congress to prioritize our democracy. We cannot out-organize the subversion of democracy. In states like Georgia, Republicans are doubling down on the ‘big lie’ and will do anything in their power to overturn the will of the people,” said Bee Nguyen, Georgia state representative.
“As a Black southerner, I came to DC to represent one of the most disenfranchised demographics in the country. Collectively, we bet on President Joe Biden and now it’s time for him to settle up. Do not continue to take for granted the very people who supported your journey to the White House, because where would you be if we could no longer vote? End the filibuster now,” said Tami Sawyer, Commissioner, Shelby County, TN.
“I am risking arrest at the White House today because I want our children to live in a democracy and ours is under attack. President Biden and Vice President Harris support the Freedom To Vote Act and so do all 50 Democratic Senators. They have the votes to deliver the most significant pro-democracy protections in a generation. It is time for President Biden to take a strong public stand that the filibuster must be changed so he and the Congress can deliver on the change mandate 2020 voters gave them,” said Jennifer Lamson, senior advisor, Democracy Initiative.
“This year, our members have made nearly 90,000 calls to Congress imploring them to pass legislation to protect our freedom to vote. But, the President of the United States can use his soapbox to make one call and compel Congress in a way that no one else can. President Biden must call on the Senate to end the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation. Two months ago, we joined with other advocates to collect over 400,000 signatures from Americans in every congressional district demanding President Biden do just that, and delivered the signatures to the White House. Since the president clearly needs more encouragement, we’re back today, calling on him to lead at this critical moment. His legacy and our democracy depend on it,” said Christina Harvey, Executive Director, Stand Up America.
“My job as a mom is to feed, clothe, shelter, love, and educate my child. But I also have a job as an American mom and that is to stand up for my child’s democracy, that is why I am putting my body on the line for my family and my community in Florida. I am calling on President Biden to use his power and influence to help protect the votes in states like my home state of Florida. Florida is currently under attack with a pandemic, misinformation, and now some politicians that would rather steal power with voter suppression than do the work to earn the trust and votes of black and brown folks, working people, seniors, returning citizens, and all who call Florida home,” said Laurie Woodward Garcia, Broward for Progress.
“Picking and choosing which voters to hear and which to silence isn’t a matter of left and right but a matter of right and wrong. We need every elected leader to take this voting crisis seriously with the urgency and moral clarity that it deserves. The recent anti-voting rights law in Georgia is death by a thousand cuts–it’s a sweeping law that makes it harder, and sometimes impossible, for Black and Brown voters to cast their ballot. That’s why we have filed litigation in Georgia and that’s why we’re here today. We pray President Biden remembers that Black and Brown voters, who will be negatively affected by these kinds of Jim Crow-era laws, were almost single-handedly responsible for electing our current leaders. We urge the President to lead Congress in passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect our rights and freedoms to vote and make good on America’s promise for fair and inclusive representation,” said Reverend Derrick Rice, founding Pastor of Sankofa United Church of Christ.
“Our country is running out of time to pass federal voting rights legislation, and those standing in the way are already out of excuses for their inaction. The Freedom to Vote Act is a fair, common sense approach to protecting the rights of every voter, and without it we will cease to be a democracy. We call on the Senate to immediately pass it by any means necessary,” said Andi Pringle, Political and Strategic Campaigns Director for March On.
“President Biden spent 36 years in the U.S. Senate and eight years of a frustrated agenda due to the filibuster. He knows more than anyone that fixing or nixing the filibuster is the only way to protect the voting rights of millions of Americans. Time is running out; that’s why we are here putting our bodies on the line. Mr. President, it’s time for you to put your political capital on the line to push through the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” said Charly Carter, executive director of the Democracy Initiative.
“As my hero John Lewis said, ‘You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way.’ As the wife of a black man and a grandmother to three Spanish grandchildren I am getting in the way in any way I can. From protesting for their lives mattering, to my grandchildren having a planet not on fire, to them being able to participate in future free and fair elections. Until that is accomplished, I will continue to be bold, brave and keep finding a way to get in the way,” said Barbara Harris, Broward for Progress.
“The goal of state-level anti-voter attacks is to shut out and shut up the rising majority of Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous voters. We have a moral responsibility to pass federal legislation to protect our freedom to vote — anything short of that undermines the incredible work of organizers and voters who showed up in record numbers, especially rural Georgia voters, and turned out to elect new leaders who must deliver for us. Had stronger national voting standards been in place, the Georgia voter anti-voting rights law would have been stopped. Every voter, regardless of where you live, deserves free, fair, and accessible elections. We call on President Bident and Vice President Harris to use the full power of the administration to work with the Senate — and secure the votes to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” said Reverend Fer-Rell M. Malone, Sr., Senior Pastor of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.
“Many brave and impassioned Americans protested, marched, were arrested and even died working toward voting equality. In 1963 and 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought hundreds of black people to the courthouse in Selma, Alabama to register. When they were turned away, Dr. King organized and led protests that finally turned the tide of American political opinion. In 1964 the Twenty-fourth Amendment prohibited the use of poll taxes. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act directed the Attorney General to enforce the right to vote for African Americans,” said Keith Silver, co-founder, Washington DC MLK Peacewalk.
About People For the American Way
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunity. Learn more:https://www.pfaw.org.
About League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters envisions a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate. We believe in the power of women to create a more perfect democracy.
About the Declaration for American Democracy
The Declaration for American Democracy is a coalition of more than 240 organizations from labor, racial justice, voting rights, faith, environmental, women’s rights, good government, business and many other important communities, standing together to realize a democracy that represents, reflects, and responds to all of us.