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Rep. Joyce Beatty on Getting Arrested Whereas Protesting Voter Suppression

Voting rights in America underneath assault. Simply this yr, states throughout the nation have handed dozens of restrictive voting legal guidelines, whereas Republicans proceed to dam complete voting reform laws within the U.S. Senate. The U.S. Supreme Court docket additionally just lately gutted what remained of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965—a regulation that the late Congressman John Lewis helped get handed—leaving even fewer protections in place.

To ship a message about what’s at stake, Congresswoman and Chair of the Black Congressional Caucus Joyce Beatty joined a gaggle of voting rights activists contained in the Hart Senate Workplace Constructing on Thursday to peacefully protest—and was promptly arrested. The identical day she tweeted: “You’ll be able to arrest me. You’ll be able to’t cease me. You’ll be able to’t silence me.” Under, in her personal phrases, Beatty tells ELLE.com why she felt known as to march that day and why she isn’t stopping now.

After I obtained up on Thursday morning, I needed to really feel empowered. I used to be very aware in selecting my costume code. My shirt, which learn “Shield Our Voting Rights,” was apparent. I wore a crimson, white, and blue beaded bracelet that was made in Africa. I draped myself within the crimson, white, and blue of democracy. It was necessary for me to make an announcement about who I’m—a robust Black girl who needed to face tall for different younger women.

That day, I joined an intergenerational group of Black feminine leaders and allies to face as much as shield our voting rights. The Voting Rights Act was handed 56 years in the past, and but we’re nonetheless revisiting learn how to shield our rights as we speak. We’ve witnessed Senate Republicans refusing to have interaction in significant dialogue in drafting federal laws to make sure all People have equal entry to vote. We’ve simply been visited by members of the Texas delegation, who got here to D.C. as a way to block voter restrictions of their state. So when the clarion name got here to face up, to say one thing, to do one thing, to get the eye of the nation, I mentioned completely. I actually thought this may very well be a second in historical past, and I needed to be part of it.

As Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, the John Lewis Voting Rights Development Act is our primary concern. And as a Black girl, it was necessary for me to do extra than simply say that is our concern. Take into consideration the ability of 1. One particular person could make a distinction. Rosa Parks did it. Martin Luther King Jr. did it. Fannie Lou Hamer did. Harriet Tubman did it. So why not Joyce Beatty?

Voting rights activists stage a protest on the Hart Senate Workplace Constructing in Washington, DC.

Alex WongGetty Photographs

On the day of the protest, we met on the United Methodist Church with a standard message: That is our time to observe within the footsteps of John Lewis. That’s how we decided a lot of the phrases we used: “Once you see one thing that’s not proper, say one thing.” “Get in good hassle.” “No turning again.” We took it to the sidewalk and the streets to march, to sing, to hopefully let the American individuals know: We all know what we’ve got to lose, and we all know what we’ve got to struggle for.

So we determined we’d go to the U.S. Senate. There we have been, within the Hart Constructing, and we have been singing and expressing our need to cease voter suppression. We have been suggested we couldn’t try this in that area, and at that time, we have been combating for justice. I don’t know that I heard all three of the warnings. I did hear the primary, however we have been decided that it was price us peacefully protesting. It was price us accepting no matter penalties. I used to be there for John Lewis, at any price, and that meant even being arrested.

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On the Jan. 6 revolt, you had hundreds of individuals damaging federal property, speeding and breaking down doorways. Individuals have been dying. There was nothing peaceable about it. And look what occurred. That day there have been no arrests, no handcuffs, no paddy wagons. However that is simply another excuse why we’ve got to talk up. This was all of the extra motive for me to struggle for justice, together with being arrested, if vital.

Our historical past has taught us that when individuals converse out, it makes a distinction. On Saturday evening, I used to be on the Black Lives Matter Plaza with lots of the eight ladies who obtained arrested with me. Individuals have been on the Plaza with indicators, some that have been five-feet, that lit up, indicators that women and men, Black, brown, and white, carried that mentioned, “Move H.R. 4,” the John Lewis Voting Rights Development Act, and “Move H.R. 1,” the For the Individuals Act. If this turns into contagious and folks arise, then we’ll not need to struggle for our very proper to vote.

Rep. Beatty on the Good Hassle Candlelight Vigil for Democracy at Black Lives Matter Plaza on Juy 17 to mark the one yr because the passing of Rep. John Lewis.

Invoice ClarkGetty Photographs

Proper now, we’ve got a lot to lose. We’re going again to the times of needing to guess what number of jelly beans are in a jar as a way to vote. Some individuals can’t even give somebody a bottle of water whereas they’re ready in line to vote. In Ohio, when you’ve ever served time for a felony, they’re making an attempt to remove your proper to vote. Consider the worst instances of voter suppression. Consider individuals taking away early voting. Consider the pointless hurdles to suppress you from voting. My Republican colleagues in state homes are intentionally passing laws that may set us again 56 years.

Only a few weeks in the past, my granddaughter advised some classmates, “My grandmother is a giant deal.” That is about her future. It’s about my grandson, as a younger Black man, with the ability to transfer ahead and depart a legacy and say, “My grandmother fought for justice, and now take a look at me.” It’s concerning the current and the long run. It’s about making an announcement. And we’ll be within the battle for so long as we’re wanted.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

Madison is a employees author at ELLE.com, protecting information, politics, and tradition.

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