Jesse Jackson, William Barber arrested in opposition to Filibuster and Manchin
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Rev. Jesse Jackson and Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, Rev. William Barber II, were among several civil rights and religious activists arrested during a protest outside the U.S. Senate on Wednesday June 23 At the protesters West, Virginia urged Senator Joe Manchin and other lawmakers to get rid of the filibuster and pass voting laws.
Shortly before his arrest for blocking the street, Barber was standing in the middle of Constitution Avenue when hundreds of protesters marched behind him on the sidewalk in front of the Hart Senate office building. When police began to surround Barber and others, crouched behind a banner that read, “Manchin, Stop Hurting West Virginia: Stop the Filibuster,” the pastor said he was ready to be arrested for the right to vote to protect.
“It took this to win, it will take it to keep,” said Barber.
Jackson, who was nearby, signaled his own readiness to be arrested earlier in the day by saying, “We are not coming as a riot group, but as a resurrection group” and “Today we have to fill the prisons,” before adding, ” when you call yourself “a child of God, you should act like this sometimes.”
Soon after, police led away Barber and a dozen other protesters – including Jackson, 79, who was supported by his son and another protester.
The arrests were the culmination of a two-hour demonstration that began one block away in front of the US Supreme Court. There religious leaders and activists spoke out against the recent failure of the Senate, the Voting Rights Act, known as the For the People Act, which would lift restrictions on mail-in voting and polling hours recently passed in Georgia and other states.
On Tuesday, a motion to debate the bill failed because the senators were stuck at 50:50. For the People Act proponents, including Barber, have called on Manchin to approve a change to Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster that would allow Democrats to pass the bill by simple majority. Manchin and another Democrat, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have vowed to uphold the rule.
Barber highlighted Manchin on Wednesday, saying, “We’re also here to say Manchin: Any so-called Democrat who claims not to support the unconstitutional filibuster via the constitutional guarantee that no state can deny or curtail the right to vote … support the Republicans in their extremism.
“Manchin, do not let sin block the salvation of this democracy and its soul.”
Barber also reprimanded Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – “There’s still time for McConnell to repent,” he said – but he and the other speakers turned most of their anger towards Manchin, the focus of the day Pressure of the Poor Week-Long Campaign: Last week, the West Virginia chapter of the campaign led a separate march to its state offices.
At his request, representatives of the group met with the legislature after threatening demonstrations in February. They discussed a federal minimum wage of $ 15, but left the meeting in frustration after Manchin set a lower number.
West Virginians were well represented in the crowd in front of the Supreme Court, and among the state activists who spoke at the rally was Pam Garrison, who called for a compromise on voting rights. “I don’t remember compromising when the rich got tax breaks,” she said.
Other speakers at the event included Jim Winkler, chairman of the National Council of Churches, a group that advocates for 38 member communities representing between 30 million and 40 million people – including entire denominations like the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA).
“The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the For the People Act, the American Jobs Plan, the $ 15 hourly wage – these should be put into law,” he said. “That can only happen if the filibuster leaves.”
Accompanied by a heavy police presence, the group marched from the court to the Hart building, where the arrests took place, while the demonstrators watched. The action was peaceful, with protesters repeatedly contrasting their tactics with those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. When two people started yelling at a Capitol cop while Barber was incarcerated, the North Carolina pastor reached out to them briefly to de-escalate the situation before allowing himself to be taken away.
Shortly thereafter, a leader closed the protest in prayer and concluded, “This is what a peaceful protest looks like.”
Barber hinted during his remarks that the poor people’s campaign has plans for further action in the future, and speakers at the event included liberal activist groups such as MoveOn.org.