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Jamaal Bowman

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 19, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Democracy 'On the Line' Says Bowman After Protest Arrest

"I will not stand by and I will not stay quiet while the fate of our democracy continues to hang loosely by a thread that the Senate is hellbent on tearing apart."

Julia Conley

Warning that the U.S. Senate this week left "our democracy in peril" when two right-wing Democrats joined the Republican Party to block voting rights legislation, Rep. Jamaal Bowman said Friday that disruptive direct action is now necessary to "ensure our democracy functions in a manner that represents the people."

The New York Democrat released his statement a day after being arrested outside the U.S. Capitol, along with more than two dozen other voting rights campaigners.

"With everything that has already been fought over and for, there should be no reason people have to take to the streets, go on hunger strikes, or plead with our government to act in their best interest," said Bowman. "But that isn't the case."

As Common Dreams reported Thursday, Bowman joined members of the advocacy group Un-PAC, who have been on a "hunger strike for democracy," in appealing to senators and reading aloud the anti-voting rights legislation that was passed in at least 19 states last year.

"Voting rights are on the line along with everything else we stand for. Our failure to act and save our democracy will have a devastating impact on every generation from here on out."

The laws make it harder for voters to obtain absentee ballots, restrict the assistance voters can get when they return their mail-in ballot, impose stricter voter ID laws which will disproportionately affect low-income people, and ban people from handing out water to voters waiting on long lines, among other measures.

"Voting rights are on the line along with everything else we stand for," Bowman said on Friday. "Our failure to act and save our democracy will have a devastating impact on every generation from here on out. I intend to do my part to prevent that from happening."

The congressman took direct aim at Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who—along with all 50 Republicans in the Senate—he  called "a direct threat to our democracy" who "are standing in the way of progress."

However, he added, "the Senate's vote is not the end of this battle. If we all don't stand up right now and fight for our democracy, we might lose it forever. Now is the time to put it all on the line."

Since taking office last year, Bowman said, "I've thought about our elders, whose sacrifices and determination fuel me."

"I've asked myself, 'What would Fannie Lou Hamer say and do in this moment if she were still with us? What about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or John Lewis or Claudette Colvin?' More than anything, they'd want legislation passed and signed into law. Short of that, they'd want actions, sit-ins, and marches," said the congressman. "They'd also want to disrupt the country until our cries are heard."

Bowman vowed to risk arrest "again and again and again" in order to call attention to the GOP's attack on voting rights.

"One thing must be made clear," he said. "I will not stand by and I will not stay quiet while the fate of our democracy continues to hang loosely by a thread that the Senate is hellbent on tearing apart."


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