By LaKeshia N. Myers
January 6, 2021—hundreds storm the United States capitol building. All security perimeters were breached; windows were broken, Capitol Police Officers were sprayed with bear spray and beaten for blocking entrance to the building. Congressional offices were broken into and ransacked; the U.S. Senate chamber was taken by insurrectionists wielding zip-ties and other weapons, and the Vice-President was taken to an underground bunker. No arrests were made on that day.
Fast forward to July 15, 2021. A group of twelve peaceful protesters, mostly African American women, walked the halls of senate office buildings, singing civil rights songs. U.S. Capitol police officers stood at the ready and within minutes, nine of the protesters–including Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, were arrested for protesting in a restricted area.
At its core, the optics of these two events are unconscionable. How is it that a small, weaponless, group of African American women protesting for equity in voting rights could be arrested with more haste than hundreds of armed insurrectionists determined to overthrow government leadership? The very nature of this is anti-American. But many Conservative Americans refuse to hold the necessary parties responsible or even acknowledge the Republican Party’s role in continuing to spread untruths about the 2020 presidential election and their full court press to obstruct and restrict access to the ballot box.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, as of May 14, 2021, legislators have introduced three hundred eighty-nine bills with restrictive provisions in forty-eight states (Brennan Center, 2021). Twenty-two bills with restrictive provisions have already been enacted, and at least sixty-one bills with restrictive provisions in eighteen states are moving through legislatures: thirty-one have passed at least one chamber, while another thirty have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote).
Last week, Texas Democrats fled the state to hinder the quorum needed to hold a special session. This is being used to draw attention to the assault of voting rights and access.
The Texas legislation, SB1, would ban drive-thru voting or casting a ballot from inside a vehicle unless participating in curbside voting due to a disability; ban overnight voting by requiring polls to be open a minimum of nine hours from between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.; and require election officials to install a video surveillance system that records vote-counting activities, with a livestream made available to the public in counties with 100,000 residents or more. The bill would also make it a crime for public officials to offer or send vote-by-mail applications to those who have not requested an application.
Don’t think Wisconsinites are immune from this level of tomfoolery. Legislators in Wisconsin have also joined in on the quest to suppress the vote.
I am reminded of the late Coretta Scott King who said, “struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.” This is but the next phase in the movement, and we must keep our eyes on the prize.