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Rahna Epting executive director Rahna Epting is detained by police during the Women's Moral Monday March on Washington on July 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for MoveOn)

'Which Side Are You On?' Arrests in DC as Women Put Their Bodies on the Line for Voting Rights

"Our democracy is in peril," said Poor People's Campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. "In this time, when our Voting Rights are under attack, and economic justice is being denied, we must and so we are, calling out the immoral obstructionism of Congress."

Brett Wilkins

Nearly 100 women from 42 states were arrested Monday as they participated in a Washington, D.C. march demanding legislation to safeguard voting rights and deliver relief to poor and marginalized Americans.

"We're planting seeds today. And we are building the movement that will give our children and the next generations the life that they deserve."
—Kenia Alcocer, Poor People's Campaign

Religious News Service reports the arrests occurred during the Women's Moral Monday March on Washington, which was organized by leaders of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, a modern-day continuation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Poor People's March on Washington led by Rev. Drs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis. 

Monday's event marked the anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Women's Convention, the first women's rights convention in the U.S. Theoharis—who was arrested at the event—told RNS that "173 years later, we are still being denied voting rights."

"If we are trying to make the country a more perfect nation, it will take the leadership of all people—including women," she said.

The march was part of the Poor People's Campaign's Season of Nonviolent Moral Direct Action, which began earlier this month and will continue until August.

The event began outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Demonstrators then marched down First Street to the U.S. Capitol.

According to RNS:

Monday's protesters wore sashes with the group's demands emblazoned on them—demands also outlined in a statement signed by 100 women leaders from across the country. They had four: to end the filibuster; to pass all the provisions of the For the People Act; to fully restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act; and to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

These demands are part of the campaign's direct actions leading up to August 6, the 56th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On July 5 Barber... called for a month of "Moral Mondays"—days of nonviolent direct action and protest at state capitols and in D.C.—to save democracy and protest autocracy.

Police began detaining event organizers after they obstructed traffic on First Street. The women were released later in the day.

"Our democracy is in peril," Theoharis said in a statement. "In this time, when our voting rights are under attack, and economic justice is being denied, we must and so we are, calling out the immoral obstructionism of Congress."

Event moderator Kenia Alcocer of the national Poor People's Campaign said: "We're planting seeds today. And we are building the movement that will give our children and the next generations the life that they deserve."

"We don't want to survive," added Alcocer, "we want to thrive."

Marianne Smith, chair of the Poor People's Campaign in Oklahoma, said: "I carry with me today the voices of all the poor and low wealth, women, children, and marginalized citizens of Oklahoma. Rather than seeing an improvement I'm witnessing a decline in the rights and opportunities for the generations behind me. We're demanding equal rights."

Barber said that "in this season when extremists have committed themselves to voter up suppression, we cannot let the forces of greed destroy the very rights you had before you could even comprehend them."

"We cannot, and we will not," added Barber. "We are here today to say that the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and the obstruction of [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.] that has prevented Congress from restoring it for over eight years, has undermined and eroded our democracy. We don't want some of our justice, we want all of our justice. It's kind of like being pregnant, either you are or you're not."

Next week, the Poor People's Campaign will shift its focus from Washington, D.C. to state capitals, including a "Selma-to-Montgomery style, four-day march" from Georgetown, Texas to Austin.

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