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‘Everybody thinks it can’t happen here until it does’: Protesters outside UN hold fake funeral for democracy, voting rights in America

Protesters held a mock funeral for democracy outside of the United Nations, calling for voting rights protection on Dec. 9.
Photo by Dean Moses

On the same day President Joe Biden held the “Summit for Democracy” in Washington, protesters gathered outside the United Nations on Thursday for a “faux funeral” for voting rights in America — which have been under attack in recent months.

Just four days ago, the Department of Justice sued Texas for their redistricting plans that violate the Voting Rights Act—a law created in 1965 that prohibits racial discrimination in voting practices — by limiting electoral access in areas where Black and Latino communities reside. That comes on the heels of Republican-led states passing legislation to restrict voting hours and legislative redistricting plans that, critics say, blatantly rigs future elections in the GOP’s favor.

Add it all together, the protesters said Thursday, and it appears the democratic, republican government that Americans have relied upon and sought to defend for more than two centuries is in major peril.

Voting rights advocates held a casket to symbolize the end of democracy if the Senate does not pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Photo by Dean Moses

“This funeral is for democracy because democracy is dying and is under attack. You all know numbers, right? Y’all know 19 states have passed 33 bills. Over 400 bills that have been attempted right now as we speak. As we speak! You have gerrymandering taking place! Partisan and racially gerrymandered lines are being drawn that affect political power not just for 10 years, but really for decades,” said Cliff Albright from the Voters Matter Fund.

Lugging a mock casket in a procession surrounded by signs reading, “Biden save U.S democracy” in the shadow of the United Nations, the group quickly drew the ire of the multinational building’s security guards who began dialing 911 as the group stopped in front of the gates. However, NYPD officers opted to offer a warning in lieu of making arrests.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams joined protesters in their outcry for President Biden and the Senate to stop voting limitations across the United Sates by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

One attendee wore sneakers with the words “Black Voters Matter” on it. Photo by Dean Moses

“There’s a real deep-rooted issue that is harming Americans right now that we have to deal with it. But none of that will matter if our democracy crumbled,” Williams warned, “The Republicans are already talking about the changes they will make and how these votes are counted. And I guarantee you the annals of history will list our country as someone who had a dictator that did horrible things to its own people. That is not a hyperbolic statement. I need people to understand that. Everybody thinks it can’t happen here until it does.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act, removing the requirement that forced states and counties, especially those with a history of discrimination, to receive federal approval when creating new voting laws or districting.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act looks to amend this issue by reinstating the pre-clearance review requirements for voting laws.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams warned that once voter protections are stopped, democracy will crumble. Photo by Dean Moses

The Freedom to Vote Act allows for automatic registration, protection and expansion of voting by mail, and includes innovative steps to develop a more modern election while protecting the right to vote.

“But these protections are the sanctity of our democracy. They are the only thing that prevents us from having a dictator for life,” Williams said. 

Protesters also admonished President Biden for failing to follow through with promise to protect voting rights and implored him to step in immediately.

Protesters said it’s time for President Biden and Senate to wake up and stop voter suppression. Photo by Dean Moses

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