Hundreds To Join Texas March For Action On Voting Rights, Poverty - Organizer

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 28th July, 2021) Hundreds are expected to join a 27-mile march to the Texas state capital of Austin, where protesters will hold a rally and call on Congress to act on voter suppression, poverty and inequality, an organizer told Sputnik.

The marchers have five demands, including an end to the filibuster in the US Senate, passage of full For the People Act, and complete restoration of the Voting Rights Act, The Poor People's campaign said in a statement. The group is also urging passage of a minimum living wage of $15 per hour.

The 27-mile trek began in Georgetown, Texas on Tuesday and ends in Austin on July 30.

"We were called into Texas by grassroots activists, local leaders and clergy. We have leaders, clergy and activists in 42 states. Texas is ready," Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis told Sputnik. "It is the site of a very significant fusion of people and organizations. There are significant issues around voter suppression. We're here joining them to lift up this struggle which is a long and urgent one."

The reverend said although they are expecting "hundreds and hundreds" of people they will take measures to protect against the pandemic.

"At any one time for COVID security and safety, we will have not much more than 100 people marching at any one time," she added.

Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, said the purpose of the march is also to bring national attention to the plight of 140 million Americans who live in poverty or who are low wage-earners. On Saturday morning, she said, there will be a 150-car procession with a hearse symbolizing those living in poverty who have suffered and died.

"The states and politicians that have produced voter suppression are the same places where there is increased poverty, low wages and lack of protections for immigrants. We see the connection between attacks on democracy and the elevation of poverty," she said. "140 million Americans are living in poverty or are low wage earners, 13 million in Texas."

For too long, she said, we have not heard about issues of poor and low-income people.

"What does success look like? A shift in the narrative in the nation, states, politics and the media, talking about the reality, the reality of the poor and low wealth people," Theoharis said. "This is not a democracy if half of the people are low income or poor. This is about building power."

She said one of the movement's Primary goals is to continue unleashing the power of poor and low-income people.

"If/when they turn out at the same levels of higher income people, we could see a significant shift," Theoharis said. "But their presence to the polls is affected by their jobs, illness, transportation issues and other challenges. We saw in 2020 in state and national elections, a very high number of poor voters who cast ballots and voted for candidates/politicians dealing with racism, extending healthcare and addressing issues of the poor - the pandemics of poverty and racism. Those voters made the difference."

What's clear, the theologian said, is that there is a fear in certain circles of the powerful fusion of the poor, those languishing in low-income jobs, Blacks, whites, Native, Latino and others. And those in power seek to blunt this coalition by employing the tactic of decades and centuries-long disinvestment and since the 2020 presidential election, disenfranchisement at the polls.

"Since gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013, there have been fewer voting rights today than at the time of passage," Theoharis said. "In addition to that we're seeing introduction and passage of voter ID laws, the closing of polling stations, increased monitoring of immigrants and police at polling sites."

Texas is one of 48 states that have introduced or proposed 408 voter suppression bills in Republican-dominated legislatures around the United States as of May 19th. So far, 25 have been signed into law.

But the Texas legislature has so far been stymied in their efforts to make a sweeping Republican voting reform bill, called SB 7, into law. That's because 58 Democrats in the House of Representatives left the state in early July and flew to Washington, DC to deny Republicans a quorum and block them from passing a new onerous and restrictive voting rights law in the remaining 27 days of the special legislative session called by Gov. Greg Abbott.