Democratic Rep. Beatty arrested while calling for Senate action on voting rights

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, was arrested Thursday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol while protesting in favor of voting rights legislation.

Beatty, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was part of a small group urging the Senate to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, federal legislation that would curtail restrictions being set on voting and gerrymandering at the state level.

Speaking on the Hill before her march into the Hart Senate Office Building, Beatty compared this moment to the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, saying, “We might as well have the dogs and the hoses because we don’t have the Voting Rights Act, and that’s why we need to march in these streets, we need to march as those who were followers of Martin Luther King and John Lewis.”

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus is taken into custody by U.S. Capitol Police officers in the Hart Senate Office Building, after a demonstration supporting the voting rights, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 15, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Rep. Joyce Beatty is taken into custody by U.S. Capitol Police officers in the Hart Senate Office Building after a demonstration supporting voting rights Thursday. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Beatty added that she hoped she would get arrested.

“That’s what today is about: It’s about fighting for everyone,” she said. “It’s about fighting for justice. It’s about fighting for you.”

Less than an hour after speaking, Beatty was being zip-tied by U.S. Capitol Police, along with a small number of other protesters.

“Let the people vote. Fight for justice,” tweeted the congresswoman’s official Twitter account, with two photos of her being arrested. It later tweeted, “Good trouble,” a reference to the late Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon.

Representative Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from Ohio, center, leads a group of activists through the Hart Senate Office Building during a protest about voting rights on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. (Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Rep. Joyce Beatty, center, leads a group of activists through the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Capitol Police said nine people were processed for "demonstrating in a prohibited area on Capitol Grounds." Beatty released a statement that said she stands “in solidarity with Black women and allies across the country in defense of our constitutional right to vote. We have come too far and fought too hard to see everything systematically dismantled and restricted by those who wish to silence us. Be assured that this is just the beginning.”

As of June 21, 17 states had enacted 28 new laws this year that restrict access to the vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. At least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 state legislatures, while 31 have passed at least one chamber. Earlier this month, a Supreme Court ruling by the six Republican-appointed justices delivered another blow to the Voting Rights Act in a case regarding Arizona laws, which Beatty referred to in her remarks Thursday afternoon.

The House passed the For the People Act in March, but it has been blocked by the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to move forward. President Biden spoke about the importance of protecting voting rights on Tuesday but faced scrutiny from civil rights leaders and many congressional Democrats for failing to call for the elimination of the filibuster, which would allow for the bill to pass with a simple majority of Democratic votes.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the filibuster “a legislative procedural process that is up to the Senate to determine the path forward on” and said that there is currently not the consensus among Senate Democrats needed to support removing it.

“I know we focus on one or two,” Psaki said, likely referring to moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., “but there is certainly more than that, of individuals who oppose changes to the filibuster because of the history.”

Beatty and her fellow marchers chanted “End the filibuster” prior to their arrests.

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