U.S. Capitol Police announced Civil Rights activist and Baptist minister Rev. Jesse Jackson was among several people who were arrested Wednesday during a protest outside the U.S. Capitol building.
The 79-year-old, together with other activists, had converged at the nation’s capital to stage a “Poor People’s Campaign” protest against the recent blocking of a voting rights bill as well as call for the scrapping of the filibuster, CNN reported. The “For the People Act” was a bill tabled by Democratic lawmakers to introduce sweeping nationwide voting and election reforms aimed at making voting easier. GOP senators, however, used a filibuster on Tuesday to block the bill from even being debated.
And as part of Wednesday’s demonstrations, the group also reportedly gathered around the U.S. Supreme Court to make a request to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as well as West Virginia senator Joe Manchin to put an end to the filibuster. Manchin, a Democrat, was initially adamant he would oppose the voting and election bill.
Among the protesters who were arrested on Wednesday was social justice activist and co-chair of the “Poor People’s Campaign”, Rev. William Barber II. “When you start rolling back voter registration, rolling back early voting, undermining mail in balloting, putting limits on people even being able to get water, doing racist gerrymandering, class-based gerrymandering, you hurt Black people, you hurt White people, you hurt Asians, Natives, Latinos, young people and the disabled,” Barber said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
Jackson and Barber were reportedly arrested while they were marching around the Hart Senate Building. The two leaders, together with other activists, were said to have moved from the sidewalk and onto the street to protest – thereby blocking traffic. Capitol Police informed them their actions were “illegal” and officers later led them to the sidewalk.
Prior to their arrest, Religion News Service reported Jackson had told the crowd he was ready to be jailed if that was what it took to get their voices heard. “We come not as an insurrection group, but as a resurrection group,” he said. “Today we must fill up the jails.”
“If you call yourself a child of God, you oughta act like it sometimes,” he added.
As part of efforts to end nationwide voting restrictions, “March On”, in partnership with Martin Luther King III’s “Drum Major Institute” and other organizations, also announced a voting rights March on August 28 in some cities across the United States. August 28 also marks the 58th anniversary of the historic March on Washington. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on that day.
“It disheartens me to say that as a country and society, we are not even close to where my father hoped we would be since delivering his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech 58 years ago,” Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the iconic Civil Rights activist, said in a statement.
“I think my father would be greatly disappointed in where we are at this particular moment, but he would not give up on the nation. He believed in the power of people, the power of young people, and the power of change to come, and I am proud to support March On for Voting Rights to help carry out that change and recommit ourselves to finishing my father’s unfinished work.”
Reverend Al Sharpton also added: “It’s time for all Americans to come together and join this non-violent, non-partisan movement in the spirit of Dr. King and the values he pushed this nation to uphold. I’m proud to be a part of the March On for Voting Rights because there is no democratic right more sacred than the right to vote, and it is under threat across America. We must fight to protect it.”