US Capitol police arrested US Rep Hank Johnson during a voting rights demonstration on 22 July, marking the second arrest of a member of Congress on Capitol grounds amid protests demanding federal action on voting rights protections.
The House Democrat joined Black Voters Matter’s Brothers’ Day of Action on Capitol Hill, linking arms with demonstrators and while chanting “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The filibuster has got to go!” in a call to US Senators to abolish the procedural mechanism that has derailed voting rights legislation and other critical measures on the Democratic agenda.
US Capitol Police said officers arrested 10 people for “unlawfully demonstrating outside of the Hart Senate Office Building” and charged them with “crowding, obstructing or incommoding”. All were processed and released.
“I was arrested today protesting against Senate inaction on voting rights legislation [and] filibuster reform,” Rep Johnson said in a Twitter post sharing a video showing him with a group of demonstrators being detained in zip ties.
“In the spirit of my dear friend and mentor – the late Congressman John Lewis – I was getting in #goodtrouble,” said Rep Johnson, referencing the late civil rights leader’s appeal to protest injustice.
Former NAACP president Cornell William Brooks and Color of Change president Rashad Robinson were also among those arrested on Thursday.
The congressman, secretary of the Congressional Black Caucus, is the second House Democrat to face arrest within this month during demonstrations around the Capitol calling on the Senate to pass the For The People Act and a restoration of the Voting Rights Act to be named in honour of the late Mr Lewis.
Congressional Black Caucus chair Joyce Beatty was arrested with eight other people on 15 July for “demonstrating in a prohibited area on Capitol Grounds”, according to a Capitol police statement.
Earlier this week, police arrested 77 people outside the US Supreme Court during a Poor People’s Campaign demonstration commemorating the anniversary of the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls with demands to protect voting rights and raise the federal minimum wage.
“I stand in solidarity with Black women and allies across the country in defense of our constitutional right to vote,” US Rep Beatty said in a statement following her arrest. “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 this is just the beginning. This is our power. Our message.”
Their arrests in Washington DC follow the arrival of a group of Democratic state lawmakers from Texas who left the state in a last-ditch effort to block passage of restrictive voting legislation in the state, among dozens of proposals from Republican state lawmakers waging a coordinated campaign to undermine ballot access across the US.
A growing number of Democratic lawmakers, cvil rights groups and activists have urged President Joe Biden to pressure Senate Democrats to amend or abolish filibuster rules requiring 60 votes to move legislation forward in the evenly divided upper chamber, whole the GOP has committed to obstructing their agenda.
During a CNN town hall this week, the president argued for filibuster reform but warned that eliminating the rules would “throw the entire Congress into chaos”.
In impassioned remarks from Philadelphia earlier this month, the president lambasted Donald Trump’s persistent lie that the election was “stolen” from him and condemned the GOP’s restrictive voting legislation inspired by his fraudulent narrative.