The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and eight other people were arrested during a demonstration at the US Capitol on 15 July to support voting rights.
“I stand in solidarity with Black women and allies across the country in defense of our constitutional right to vote,” US Rep Joyce Beatty said in a statement.
US Capitol Police officers bound the hands of the Democratic congresswoman from Ohio in zip ties.
“We have come too far and fought too hard to see everything systematically dismantled and restricted by those who wish to silence us. Be assured that this is just the beginning,” she said in her statement. “This is Our Power, Our Message.”
The congresswoman joined a group urging Congress to support passage of sweeping federal voting rights legislation after Republican lawmakers across the US filed dozens of bills to undermine the right to vote, part of a coordinated campaign in the wake of 2020 elections to curtail mail-in voting and early voting options and hand more electoral oversight to GOP-dominated legislatures.
In a statement following the arrests, Capitol police said nine people were detained for “demonstrating in a prohibited area on Capitol Grounds.”
“After officers arrived on the scene, they warned the demonstrators three times to stop,” according to Capitol police.
The demonstration follows the arrival of a group of Texas Democratic state lawmakers who left the state for Washington DC in a last-ditch effort to block the passage of Republican legislation to restrict ballot access.
While in the nation’s capital, Texas Democrats are lobbying members of Congress to back the For The People Act and a restoration of the Voting Rights Act to be named in honour of the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis.
Senate Republicans have already blocked the For The People Act and vowed to reject the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, while pressure is growing against key Democrats to amend Senate filibuster rules that could allow Democrats to advance their agenda with a simple majority vote.
In Texas, proposals would roll back early voting options that proved popular in the state’s massive counties during the coronavirus pandemic and embolden partisan poll watchers to harass election workers, among other measures.
GOP lawmakers in at least 48 states have introduced nearly 400 bills this year to undermine the right to vote, introduced under the guise of protecting “election integrity” and ensuring “voter confidence” despite overwhelming turnout in 2020 elections and no evidence of widespread vote fraud, against the baseless narrative promoted by Donald Trump and his allies.
At least 28 of those bills have been signed into law in 17 states.
A parallel effort from GOP lawmakers has seen more than 200 bills in 41 states that give themselves more authority over the electoral process. At least 24 of those bills have been signed into law.
In impassioned remarks from Philadelphia this week, President Joe Biden condemned the former president’s persistent election lies and GOP legislation as he called on Congress to pass the pair of voting rights bills, but he has not rallied Democrats around amending Senate filibuster rules, despite his insistence that protecting and expanding the right to vote remains a “test of our time” and a definitive battle for his term.
“This is election subversion. It’s the most dangerous threat to voting,” he said of GOP election laws. “It’s hard to declare how critical this is. It’s simply unconscionable.”