President Biden hosts a virtual “Summit For Democracy” for 110 countries amid rising authoritarianism in the world. Activists in Atlanta are worried about rising authoritarianism in this county and that Democrats don’t see the urgency in stopping Trump’s ongoing coup to undermine the election process to overturn the next election.
In Atlanta, Black Voters Matter, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Protect the Vote Georgia, Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, and Georgia Working Families Party stood in front of Senator Jon Ossoff Buckhead office all day to put pressure on the Democratic Party to take a stronger stance to end the filibuster and pass federal voting rights legislation.
“We are out here in front of Senator Jon Ossoff’s office reminding President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that democracy is in danger right here at home. We saw a record number of voter suppression bills in 2021. We have to end the filibuster and pass HR 4 John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and S 2747 Freedom to Vote Act which are stuck in the Senate because of the filibuster,” Cindy Battles, Director of Policy and Engagement with the Georgia Coalition of the People’s Agenda told the Streets of Atlanta.
The Freedom to Vote Act bill would protect our elections from voter suppression, partisan sabotage, gerrymandering, and dark money.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 is legislation that would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The preclearance requirements of Section 5 were struck down by the United States Supreme Court in 2013.
In the 2020 election, Democrats won the Presidency, the House and Senate and Republicans lost their minds. Changing demographics in Georgia contributed to Trump’s loss.
According to the 2020 U.S. Census report, in Georgia whites are 51.9%, Blacks 31.0 %, and all other races combined 17.1%. Since minorities historically vote Democrat this does not bode well for a future Republican victory in Georgia.
“There is a growing demographic in Georgia that cares about voting rights, climate change, education, healthcare, and inclusion and does not want to see our communities threatened by state violence. We are moving into the future and we can’t continue to operate like this,”[with Jim Crow-era voter suppression bills] Markese Bryant with Black Voters Matter told the Streets of Atlanta.
“We know the history of voter suppression as it relates to black folks and people of color in this country. In response to Georgia turning blue, the GOP passed SB 202 a voter suppression bill which is anti-democratic,” Bryant said.
VOTER SUPPRESSION BILLS
Republicans, desperate to stay in power and fearful Trump will primary someone more loyal, repeated his “Big Lie” that he won. Georgia Republicans quickly passed SB 202 a 98-page voter suppression bill on steroids that other states copied.
Nationally the GOP got busy and introduced 425 voter suppression bills to restrict access to the ballot and 19 states passed 33 laws making it harder for people of color and young people to vote. Five states have pre-filed bills that would reduce the amount of voting by mail for 2022.
Fair Fight, a national voting rights organization rooted in Georgia, gives 50 reasons SB 202 is harmful to voters. These 50 reasons clearly show that SB 202, at its core, is a racist bill meant to restrict access and criminalize voting.
The most dangerous part of SB 202 is that it gave Republican-controlled legislatures the power to control the State Election Board and replace county Board of Election officials with Trump loyalists who will count the votes and certify the election results. If they don’t like the outcome of an election, they will cry fraud and have the election overturned.
“SB 202 has now created barriers, with the elections office, we’re seeing that folks are already threatening to remove people from Fulton County. If you can do it in Fulton County, one of the biggest counties in the state of Georgia. What makes us think that this can’t happen all over the state,” Hannah Gebresilassie, Executive Director, Protect the Vote, told the Streets of Atlanta.
“The way they rushed SB 202 through the legislature in less than 24 hours was unacceptable. We’ve seen many advocacy groups step up to file lawsuits against SB 202. And even with this current redistricting process, we’re seeing lawsuits come out against that. It seems to be this pattern of when Republican lawmakers aren’t getting the wins that they want – they take measures to either create barriers to make it harder to vote or work to ensure that they can choose who can and who cannot count the votes and determine the outcomes of the elections,” Gebresilassie said.
A truly mean and petty part of SB 202 is the criminalization of people who give out water or food to people standing in long lines for up to 8 hours.
All autocratic dictators know that it’s not those who vote that determine an election outcome but those who count the votes.
THE JANUARY 6TH INSURRECTION
Desperate to stay in power, Trump bullied Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the election. When Pence did not cooperate with this unconstitutional plan, Trump pointed his radicalized mob of white supremacists, QAnon supporters, racists, and fascists thugs to the Capitol and ordered them to “fight like hell or you will lose your country.”
They gleefully shouted “Hang Pence and kill Nancy” as they fought with capitol police and said, “Trump sent us.”
Red flag warnings were raised by local officials, FBI informants, former national security officials, and many others but they were ignored.
For over three hours Trump watched with approval the carnage on television and refused to send help or call off his attack dogs.
House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy called Trump for help during the attack and Trump said, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Five people died on January 6th and 4 police officers committed suicide later, dozens more officers were injured.
After the attack, Republican efforts to undermine the 2020 election restarted with states like Georgia and Arizona recounting the ballots over and over again with the same outcome that Biden won and Trump lost.
INTIMIDATION, DEATH THREATS, AND FEAR INCREASED AFTER JAN 6
“There is fear. Whether it is because of Trump or whether it is because of their base or whether it is because of right-wing white supremacists that are applying pressure. I don’t know where it’s coming from but there is fear in this process,” Gebresilassie said.
Reuters has documented more than 800 intimidating messages to election officials in 14 states, and they documented a hundred threatening messages to officials and election workers in Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold containing most of Atlanta, a majority-black city.
In Georgia, because of Trump’s vicious lies, two election workers in Fulton County received threatening messages including death threats. One election worker was so frightened she went into hiding.
Kayne West’s publicist, a Trump supporter, tried to intimidate another Fulton County election worker to confess to a bogus voter fraud charge. She refused and called the police.
Even Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, and his family received death threats because he refused to find Trump votes that he did not receive.
This is the way a mob boss or an authoritarian dictator works to stay in power.
The filibuster has been used to block progressive legislation throughout American history from civil rights legislation to gun violence prevention legislation. Now it is standing in the way of voting rights legislation to protect people’s right to vote and democracy.
According to the Brookings Institute, the Senate has a number of options for curtailing the use of the filibuster, including by setting a new precedent, changing the rule itself, or placing restrictions on its use.
Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) refuse to eliminate or weaken the filibuster for any reason. They both believe the filibuster is the key to making bipartisanship possible in the Senate. This is not true, especially with Trump’s Republican Party. These two Democrats are roadblocks to President Biden’s agenda.
“Senator Manchin needs to remember that voting rights are the epitome of democracy. And while he thinks that the filibuster protects democracy, that’s not true. Right now, the filibuster is literally standing in the way of democracy,” Battles said.
The filibuster is the tyranny of the minority.
WHAT YOU CAN DO AND WHY
Sign the petition to protect voting rights and democracy.
Trump is a morally sick, corrupt, and cruel man who has attacked almost everyone and threatened people who don’t do what he wants. This is not normal, this is a cancer that we must cut out of our government, or we will be living in an authoritarian dictatorship run by a dangerous lying madman who has no shame, empathy, or humanity.
To stop this cancer from metastasizing further, the majority of good people in the county must stand up, speak out, organize, march, call, lobby and force the Senate to remove the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. So the American people can vote these bullies and thugs out of power and save democracy.
written and photos by Gloria Tatum
Manchin cartoon from the internet author unknown