The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jesse Jackson among voting rights protesters arrested in D.C.

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Prominent civil rights leaders the Revs. Jesse L. Jackson and William J. Barber II were among about 200 people arrested outside the U.S. Capitol on Monday while protesting for Congress to end the filibuster, protect voting rights and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

As Capitol Police arrested protesters on the 100 block of Constitution Avenue NE near the Senate Office Buildings, people continued to chant, dance and raise their fists. A Capitol Police spokesperson said 204 people were arrested for crowding the street.

“Everybody’s got a right to live,” protesters sang as they waited to be arrested.

Protesters were demanding lawmakers expand and protect the Voting Rights Act by Friday, the 56th anniversary of the legislation. They also called on Congress to pass the For the People Act, which would override many voting restrictions in new Republican state laws, but has stalled in the Senate; to eliminate the 60-vote-threshold filibuster; to enact a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage; and for “fair and respectful treatment” of immigrants.

On Sunday night, Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis — co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign — also joined Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) outside the Capitol to protest the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium.

The movement is part of a series of weekly “Moral Monday” protests across the country launched in July and organized by the new Poor People’s Campaign, the resurgence of a movement organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before his death in 1968. Monday’s protest comes two weeks after the group rallied outside the Supreme Court and on the heels of a four-day march from Georgetown, Tex., to Austin.

More than 100 state legislators from more than 20 states also converged in Washington on Monday to urge the Senate and President Biden to support voting rights legislation and are scheduled to rally outside the Capitol on Tuesday.

The event on Monday began with a rally outside Union Station with speakers including Jackson, Barber — a North Carolina preacher — and Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson who signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.

“Black and Brown people are the base of the party. We’re not the bottom. We’re the foundation,” Jackson said to the crowd as a call-and-response. “If we lose, they lose. If we lose, democracy loses. If we lose, Democrats lose. If we lose, the nation loses.”