Advocates Push Congress for Voting Rights Legislation

Advocates gather to urge Congress to take action on voting rights.
Donna Aceto

Dozens of protesters who gathered at Battery Park on Tuesday for a rally to support Congressional legislation protecting voting rights let out thunderous cheers after news broke that Governor Andrew Cuomo had resigned following closing walls of investigations, sexual assault claims, and talks of impeachment.

“For those of you who don’t know, Andrew Cuomo has just resigned,” one speaker said as his voice was drowned out by applause and euphoric cries.

However, demonstrators swiftly composed themselves and moved on to the task at hand.

Standing at the foot of the East Coast Memorial in Battery Park, advocates came decked out in medical gear and set up a mock patient in the form of a dummy with the words “democracy” scrawled across its bed sheet attached to an IV marked S1. This was intended to represent what civil rights activists feel to be the dire state of American democracy after numerous states have instituted restrictive legislation limiting people of color from voting.

Stanley Fritz of Citizen Action NY delivers remarks.Donna Aceto

The afternoon demonstration was a part of a national day of action appealing to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass the For The People Act (S.1), a bill to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws and reduce the influence of money and party influence in politics.

“We are here today because democracy as we understand it is in peril,” said Jawanza Williams, director of organizing for advocacy group VOCAL-NY. “We are here today to advocate for the For the People Act, which is our best defense against over 300 absolutely racist, classist, voter suppression [bills] that have been introduced across our country. There has been a wave of white supremacist violence happening. January 6 was a sign of what is possible. The white supremacist insurrection was led to thwart a democratic election with the sign of what is to come. So, what we are here today to point out is that democracy is not dead, but it is on life support.”

Jawanza Williams of VOCAL-NY.Donna Aceto

Williams explains that S1 is not just another voter bill, but a comprehensive package that directly responds to the realities of current day voter suppression and gerrymandering.

Advocates at the rally are putting pressure on Schumer to pass the bill before the August recess and to not allow filibusters to block it.

“It’s going to take government action, but that action has not happened because the people that are in power have been put in power and maintain their power through the influence of problematic donations from billionaires,” Williams added.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams put an emphasis on campaign finance reform.Donna Aceto

But not all went according to plan. The rally proceeded despite the start of a heat wave, and the sweltering temperatures led one attendee to faint. An arriving ambulance halted but did not cancel proceedings.

As the man was attended to by EMS, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams lent his support to the bill’s passage

He added, “What we hear now is that people want to return to normal during this pandemic. What we know is, normal doesn’t work. Normal didn’t work for the vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans, so we don’t want to return to normal. We have to become better than normal. We have to put the systems in place that weren’t there that caused so many people to die in the first place.”

Nadine Gayle represents Assemblymember Latrice Walker’s office.Donna Aceto
Activists send a message that Democracy is dying.Donna Aceto
Activists make the connection between racism and voter suppression.Donna Aceto

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.

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