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Police Arrest Rep. Jamaal Bowman During Voting Rights Protest at the Capitol

The progressive lawmaker had joined hunger strikers on the eighth day of their protest.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y holds a rally outside the U.S. Capitol to urge the Senate to pass voting rights legislation on January 19, 2022.

Capitol Police arrested progressive lawmaker Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) after he joined a demonstration for voting rights at the Capitol on Thursday, according to his office.

“Today, Congressman Jamaal Bowman joined a voting rights non-violent direct action at the North Barricade of the U.S. Capitol Building and was arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police,” said Marcus Frias, Bowman’s director of communications. “We will provide more information and updates as we gather them.”

According to police, protestors had begun to block one side of a barricade. The department claims it has arrested over two dozen people in relation to the protest. Un-PAC, the organization behind the protest, said that many of those arrested are young protesters, and that police have arrested them before for similar demonstrations.

Bowman, who is Black, had visited protesters on Wednesday ahead of a crucial vote to amend Senate rules in order to pass legislation to expand and protect voting rights. “Our democracy is on the line, and the Senate must act and pass voting rights immediately,” he wrote. “We’re outside the Senate steps sounding the alarm.”

Bowman is one of a string of other Black Democratic lawmakers who have been arrested in demonstrations for voting rights over the past year. Representatives Al Green (Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Hank Johnson (Georgia) and Joyce Beatty (Ohio) were arrested in separate voting rights protests last summer.

Bowman had joined strikers on the eighth day of their Hunger Strike 4 Democracy on Thursday when he was arrested.

“Today’s action was a means of making a statement and taking a stand against political corruption. Despite 52 of our senators standing aside as our democracy crumbles, we will not,” Shana Gallagher, executive director of Un-PAC, told Truthout.

“Young people don’t have a choice but to keep organizing to fix our broken democracy by getting big money out of politics, banning partisan gerrymandering, and protecting our freedom to vote,” Gallagher continued. “We will remember which side of history our Senators stood on, and which of them worked to deliver for their constituents, rather than for their ultra-wealthy mega donors and special interests.”

Twenty-eight protesters for voting rights were arrested earlier this week.

This is the second hunger strike for voting rights by Un-PAC demonstrators. Last month, the Hunger Strike 4 Democracy demonstrators traveled from Phoenix to D.C. after striking in front of the capitol building of their home state to no avail. The group, made up of university students, expressed frustration that Congress has failed to act on voting rights. Their first hunger strike lasted 15 days and was extremely taxing for the protesters.

The goal of the strike is to push Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. The bill would overhaul current election laws by making voting more accessible across the country with mail-in ballot expansions, implementing automatic voter registration and increasing transparency around campaign finance. Lawmakers had proposed a filibuster workaround to pass the legislation, but conservative Democrats Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) joined Republicans in blocking the effort on Wednesday night.

“My question for Senator Manchin is: what is it going to take for you to actually represent your constituents?” said hunger striker and West Virginia University student Rylee Haught in a statement. “[W]e are desperate to end political corruption and for a functional, accountable democracy. Yesterday, you failed to deliver that, Senator Manchin. You are standing aside as our democracy crumbles. I will not give up on West Virginia like you did.”

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