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Activists Rally At Texas Capitol, Demand Federal Protection For Voting Rights

Gabriel C. Pérez
Voting rights activists and supporters reach downtown Austin on Saturday at the end of a four-day march that started on Wednesday.

More than a thousand people marched to the south steps of the Texas Capitol Saturday to denounce the state’s proposed election law changes, calling on the federal government to pass legislation that would make those changes illegal.

The rally began four days ago in Georgetown, when organizers from The Poor People's Campaign and Beto O’Rourke’s voter mobilization group began a 27-mile march that culminated in Austin on Saturday. Willie Nelson performed at the rally.

Inspired by the iconic marches of the civil rights movement, performers sang a rendition of the popular protest song called “We Shall Not Be Moved,” changing the words to, “We’re marching for our voting rights, we shall not be moved.”

Rev. William J Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, addressed the crowd flanked by a bright purple casket, which he said represented the way statehouses across the country are trying to bury their attempts to fight for voting rights.

“It will not happen on our watch,” he said.

Barber also called on President Joe Biden to “come talk to the people in Texas,” and urged him to push through the passages of the For the People and John Lewis Voting Rights acts.

During his remarks, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke thanked the state legislators who fled to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to block the passage of the bills that would restrict drive-through voting and 24-hour polling locations, among other provisions. Democrats from the Texas House of Representatives left the state on July 12 to block these efforts, which they consider restrictive and unnecessary.

Adrianne Coward, a veteran from San Marcos, attended the rally with her daughter Tiffany Williams, who is also a veteran. Coward said she was inspired to attend after her daughter participated in two legs of the march from Georgetown.

Despite the heat, they both felt it was important for them to be there.

“It’s kind of crazy after all these years we’re still doing the same thing, still having to march for the same exact rights and reasons,” Williams said. “We can out-power the ones in charge. We have the right to vote them in and out and so if we don’t like what they’re doing, we can all come together and change it.”

Many Republican-led legislatures across the country have passed similar voting changes in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, largely in response to unfounded claims by former president Donald Trump that widespread voter fraud led to his loss.

The current Texas Legislative special session ends August 6. Governor Greg Abbott has said he will call additional special sessions in order to get the voting bill passed.

Gabriel C. Pérez
Voting rights activists and supporters rallied outside the Texas Capitol on Saturday at the conclusion of the March for Democracy, which started from Georgetown on Wednesday.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Counter protesters meet voting rights activists and supporters Saturday as they arrive to the Texas Capitol after a four-day march that started in Georgetown.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II speaks at a rally at the Texas Capitol on Saturday at the conclusion of the March for Democracy.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Beto O'Rourke speaks at a rally at the Texas Capitol on Saturday at the conclusion of the March for Democracy.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Willie Nelson performs at a rally at the Texas Capitol on Saturday at the conclusion of the March for Democracy.

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