Saturday, May 8, 2021, was the “John Lewis National Day of Action ” to restore the Voting Rights Act. People in 20 cities in Georgia and 200 cities around the country took to the streets in “Votercades” to mobilize passage of HR1 For the People Act and HR 4 the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and HR 51 for DC statehood and to address the racist Jim Crow era filibuster.
In Atlanta, about 80 cars left from the Carter Center decorated with signs “Protect Our Vote”, “Money Out Voters In”, “Money is Not Speech”, and “Pass the For the People Act.”
Another Votercade of 21 cars left St. Phillips African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church and joined the other group at the King Center for a press conference. Afterward, all 100 cars moved around town for about an hour, honking their horns, waving to people, and finally ending the Votercade at Cascade United Methodist Church for food and fellowship.
At the Carter Center, Congresswoman Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) said, “State legislators are passing voter suppression laws that are equivalent to what we saw in the Jim Crow era – the results they are seeking are the same to keep people like me away from the ballot box. It should not matter where you live in this country, your right to vote should be standardized because your zip code should not determine your access to the ballot.”
“We should not allow a procedural rule, especially a relic of the Jim Crow era like the filibuster to get in the way of our access to the ballot,” U.S. Rep. Williams tells the Streets of Atlanta.
In the U.S. Senate, any bill can be delayed or killed with a filibuster unless there is a 60% majority. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W VA) opposes eliminating the filibuster but recently suggests he is open to reforming the filibuster. Biden’s progressive agenda to help the country will be in danger if the barrier to majority rule is not removed by getting rid of the filibuster. Currently, Sen. Machin is the biggest obstacle to getting rid of the racist, Jim Crow era filibuster.
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp a/k/a the Voter Suppression King signed SB 202 into law. It is a racist overhaul of the voting system that targets people of color to make it more difficult to vote. The bill allows Republicans to control election boards in Democratic-leaning countries like Fulton County to overturn the will of the voters. They are trying to pick who votes instead of voters picking their elected officials, as reported in the Streets of Atlanta.
“I’m saddened that Georgia was the first state to enact legislation to suppress our right to vote. We ran all over the world talking about democracy and yet here at home, we are suppressing democracy. This is hypocritical – you can’t have it one way for one group of people and another way for others. For our legislators to create these laws – it is unamerican,” Martin Luther King, III said at the King Center to the Votercade folks.
As of March 24, state legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states. Five of these restrictive bills have already been signed into law, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. These voter suppression bills were created because of Trump’s “Big Lie” that he won the 2020 presidential election and many Republicans continue to repeat his lie.
At the King Center, Rev. Dr. Charles Steele, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), said, “The 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) can be restored by an executive order.”
“We were telling folks in 2013 they were getting ready to gut section 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The excuse they used is that we have a Black President so we don’t need protection no more.”
“HR1 is good, let’s do it, HR 4 is good, let’s do it, and SB 1 is good, let’s do it.”
“But there is nothing like the 1965 VRA. They [state legislators] are suppressing the vote and you are going back to Jim Crow because you lost section 4 and 5 of the VRA,” Dr. Steele said.
The SCLC wants President Joe Biden to use his Executive Order to restore sections 4 and 5 of the gutted 1965 VRA with expansion. The executive order is a power tool at the president’s disposal. He can restore the preclearance for the Department of Justice, which would prevent states like Georgia from denying access to the right to vote, Dr. Steele said in a press release.
Another speaker, Rev. Dr. Kevin Murriel, Pastor of Cascade United Methodist Church, gave an impassioned speech that regardless of all the progress African-Americans have made, they still have a long way to go.
“As long as Black and Brown people are killed in this country at an exponential rate, we still have a long way to go.
As long as a young black man is running down the street and is hunted down like a dog and killed, and still not have justice, we have a long way to go.
As long as a police officer can have his knee on the neck of one of our brothers for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, we have a long way to go.
As long as justice is not being served in this country, as long as there is still mass incarceration, and as long as legislators can pass racist voting laws, we still have a long way to go.
We will pass these voter rights acts and we will declare to the halls of Congress that we shall overcome because God is on our side,” Rev. Murriel said.
HR 1 and HR 4 and SB 1 have already passed the U.S. House of Representative but may be difficult to pass the Senate because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McDonnell said on national television, “100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration.” Republicans are still the party of “NO” to everything that Democrats do to help average working-class people, and especially making it easier to vote. They don’t have enough diversity to win with mainly white people, that is the real reason behind all the voter suppression bills.
HR 1/S1 For the People Act of 2021 is a federal bill that would expand access to the ballot and override most of the voter suppression legislation being proposed by the states.
HR 4 the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the full power of the 1965 VRA and block racially discriminatory laws before they can be enacted.
HR 51/S51 would allow Washington D.C. to become the 51st State and afford D.C. residents full representation in Congress and equal voting rights.
“Here we are 60 years later in 2021, and we are still fighting for the same thing [the right to vote] that we were fighting for 60 years ago,” U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-DeKalb Co.) said.
Georgia Grassroots Video by Judy Condor
Photos by Lorraine Fontana
Written by Gloria Tatum