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Demonstrators rally for voting rights in Washington, D.C.

Protesters rally to demand protection for voting rights on the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in Washington, D.C, on August 28, 2021. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds//AFP via Getty Images)

58 Years After Historic Rally, Thousands March on Washington for Voting Rights, DC Statehood

"We must protest, we must rally, we must organize and mobilize and sit in and stand up," said one speaker. "Not just for a day. Not just for a summer. But until all people are housed, until all people are fed, until all people earn a living wage."

Julia Conley

A summer marked by rallies, motorcades, and pressure campaigns targeting lawmakers standing in the way of voting rights legislation culminated on Saturday in the 2021 March on Washington, where thousands demanded that Congress pass far-reaching measures to protect and expand the right to vote. 

Demonstrators traveled from across the country to mark the 58th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
 
As groups including the Poor People's Campaign, Stand Up America, and Public Citizen have for months, thousands of protesters called on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and to eliminate the legislative filibuster to do so if necessary.
 
The For the People Act would grant statehood to Washington, D.C.; ban partisan gerrymandering, implement automatic voter registration for federal elections, and take other major steps to expand voting rights.
 
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore full anti-discrimination protections to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
 
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, was among those who spoke at rallies before and after the march—officially called "March On for Washington and Voting Rights"—as well as Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), relatives of the late Rep. John Lewis, and family members of George Floyd.
 
Addressing the crowd about statehood for Washington, D.C., Barber said the district's nearly 700,000 residents have "been robbed" for more than 200 years.
 
"I didn't say a thief came in," said the reverend. "A thief is different than a robber. A thief is sneaky. But a robber takes your rights right in front of you."
 
While right-wing Democrats including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are threatening the passage of far-reaching voting rights legislation with their support for the filibuster and claims that the bills are too "partisan," Republican state legislators have introduced more than 360 bills restricting the right to vote, and dozens are moving towards passage. 
 
Speakers including the Rev. Liz Theoharis, who co-chairs the Poor People's Campaign with Barber, connected ongoing attacks on voting rights to the climate emergency, economic justice, and the recent actions of the right wing-led Supreme Court—which gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and this week blocked the Biden administration's extended eviction moratorium.
 
"We must protest, we must rally, we must organize and mobilize and sit in and stand up," said Theoharis. "Not just for a day. Not just for a summer. But until all people are housed, until all people are fed, until all people earn a living wage."

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