Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rev. William Barber is arrested during a protest

Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, is arrested by U.S. Capitol Police after taking part in a non-violent protest in Washington, D.C. on June 23, 2021. (Photo: Poor People's Campaign/Twitter)

'We're Not Going Away!' Nonviolent Protest Over Voting Rights Ends With Arrests in DC

"We're saying across this country, it's time for people... to march on these Senate offices," declared Rev. William Barber.

Jake Johnson

Activists with the national Poor People's Campaign were arrested Wednesday after blocking a street in front of the Hart Senate building in Washington, D.C. to demand passage of the For the People Act, a popular voting rights expansion bill that Republicans successfully filibustered just 24 hours earlier.

"We don't need compromise and capitulation. Pass the bill! Break the filibuster!"
—Rev. William Barber

After rallying in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, hundreds of low-wage workers, faith leaders, and advocates—including residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, and several other states—marched to the nearby Senate building to demand meetings with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), two key opponents of the For the People Act.

When their requests were denied, activists gathered in the street in front of the building and locked arms, briefly obstructing traffic before the U.S. Capitol Police dispersed the protest and arrested demonstrators.

"They would not respond to the people from their own state," said Poor People's Campaign co-chair Rev. William Barber II, who was arrested during the protest along with Rev. Jesse Jackson and others. "We decided that we had to take nonviolent, civil disobedient action. We're not violent. We're willing to take our penalty. And, we're saying across this country, it's time for people—especially poor and low-wealth people, and religious and moral leaders—to march on these Senate offices."

Before the march on the Hart Senate Building, rally attendees blasted Manchin and Republican senators for opposing legislation that would shield the franchise from hundreds of GOP-authored voter suppression bills that have been introduced and advanced in states across the country.

"We've come here today to say there are some things that are nonnegotiable. We don't need an insurrection, we just need a nonviolent, moral mobilization and direct action."
—Rev. Barber

"We're not going away!" declared one West Virginia resident who traveled to the nation's capital to take part in Wednesday's demonstrations, which came a week after West Virginians marched on Manchin's state office to demand that the senator support the original For the People Act.

In front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Barber delivered a characteristically fiery speech accusing Republican lawmakers of launching a "political insurrection" against voting rights and warned, "The same people that suppress the vote will suppress your living wages."

"There is nothing moderate about using a non-constitutional filibuster to block protecting and expanding the constitutional right to vote," Barber said, referring to the 60-vote rule that McConnell has repeatedly wielded to block Democratic priorities and that Manchin has defended.

"Not one Democrat ran last year and said if you elect me, I'm gonna join the Republicans in their interposition and nullification," Barber continued. "The Republicans have demonstrated that they don't believe there's a problem. So how can you compromise with people who don't believe they have a problem?"

The Poor People's Campaign's latest actions came after all 50 Senate Republicansled by McConnellvoted against a motion to begin debate on the For the People Act, a sweeping and popular election reform bill that would establish national automatic voter registration, bar states from purging voter roles, strengthen campaign finance disclosure requirements, and institute federal standards for absentee voting.

Manchin joined every other member of the Senate Democratic caucus in voting for the procedural motion, but the West Virginia senator remains the only Democrat in the upper chamber who has not co-sponsored the For the People Act.

Last week, Manchin released a memo outlining a compromise version of the legislation that would strip out several of its major provisions and add a voter ID requirement.

As prominent Democrats such as former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and former President Barack Obama expressed support for Manchin's counteroffer—an abrupt shift away from years of Democratic opposition to voter ID mandates—Barber asked during Wednesday's rally, "Why would we nationalize voter ID while civil rights lawyers are in court trying to stop voter ID?"

"We've come here today to say there are some things that are non-negotiable," Barber said. "We don't need an insurrection, we just need a nonviolent, moral mobilization and direct action."

"We need to fight until hell freezes over and then fight on the ice," Barber continued. "We don't need compromise and capitulation. Pass the bill! Break the filibuster! Pass voting rights, pass living wages, pass healthcare. Do what's right for the American people, and do it for poor and low-wealth people, and do it now!"

Watch the full event:

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Doing This for My Son': UK Climate Activist Gives Interview While Handcuffed, Hauled Off by Cops

"The government's inaction on climate change is a death sentence to us all," the Just Stop Oil protester said.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Dr. Oz Is a Puppy Killer': Fetterman Campaign Responds to Reporting on Animal Testing

"This is who Dr. Oz is: unconscionable and a danger to others," said Fetterman's wife, activist Gisele Barreto Fetterman.

Julia Conley ·

'We Must Not Stand By': Amnesty Urges State Leaders to Ban Guns Near Polling Places

"Governors and secretaries of state must do everything in their power to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers this November."

Brett Wilkins ·

Green Groups Say Ruptured Oil Pipeline Should Be Scrapped—Not Repaired

"We need to quickly phase out all dangerous, failing offshore oil infrastructure, not issue more permits that invite the next disaster," said one campaigner.

Julia Conley ·

Rights Groups Implored EU Leaders to Denounce Israeli Apartheid at Summit

"Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians," says Amnesty International. "This is a crime against humanity requiring the E.U. to hold Israel's leaders to account."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo