Thousands of people marched on the Texas State Capitol Saturday to protest the state’s recent restrictive voting laws. The Capitol rally was the culmination of a four-day-long march for voting rights.
The 27-mile march from Georgetown, Texas to Austin began on Wednesday and ended Saturday at the State Capitol. It was spearheaded by two civil and voting rights organizations, the Poor People’s Campaign and Powered by the People. Other organizations, such as Black Voters Matter, Texas AFL-CIO, YWCA Greater Austin also supported the march.
“When you get out there and you leave the comfort of your home, and in this case you put on your walking shoes and you cover 30 miles in the middle of the Texas summer in central Texas—you’re saying something through that sacrifice and through that struggle,” former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke said to the Guardian.
O’Rourke, alongside Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, led the four-day march last week.
The march and rally aimed to protest the wave of voter suppression laws that have been passed across the United States and in Texas. Just last month, the Texas State Senate passed SB 1, a bill that would place burdensome restrictions on voters. The bill would prohibit drive-thru voting, eliminate 24-hour voting, ban distributing mail ballot applications to people who have not requested them, and create stricter voting ID requirements for mail ballots, among other restrictions. These impediments will largely make it more difficult for people of color and people with disabilities to vote.
“We are here today because of a mandate,” Barber said to protestors before the march began. “These legislators have mandated that we must have federal intervention.”
Country musician and activist Willie Nelson performed at the Saturday rally, singing “vote them out” with protestors.
“When you look out here today and see the thousands, and you look at the diversity in this crowd, this is the America they are afraid of,” Barber said at the rally.
“I feel like I needed to be here. It is a history-making event that is so necessary right now,” Brenda Hanson, a 75-year-old resident of Austin said. “I am a descendant of slavery and I am not interested in moving back, I want to see this country go forward. I have lived well over three-quarters of a century and I have never seen us go backwards like this before.”
Yesterday, the Poor People’s Campaign also sponsored a “National Moral Monday” rally in Washington DC led by low-wage workers and faith leaders. The rally was a part of their “Season of Nonviolent Moral Direct Action” between July 12 and August 8.
Four “Moral Monday” rallies have already been held in DC and across the country. This series of nonviolent direct action protests aim to put pressure on Congress and the White House to end the filibuster, pass the For the People Act, restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“They’re marching, they’re taking action,” O’Rourke said. “They’re not just waiting at home for someone to save the day. All of these folks are going to save the day. All of us are going to be a part of it.”
Sources: The Guardian 8/2/21; Ms. Magazine 7/29/21; Texas Tribune 7/8/21; NBC News 7/31/21; Poor People’s Campaign