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Photo: un-PAC Twitter
Photo: un-PAC Twitter

Jamaal Bowman arrested alongside 28 others protesting for voting rights

The protest demanded the Senate to change its rules around the 60-vote filibuster. The chamber did not budge in voting down the challenge.

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Rep. Jamaal Bowman was one of 28 protesters arrested at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 20 as they called for the Senate to alter its 60-vote legislative filibuster to pass two major election reform bills.

Bowman spokesperson Marcus Frias said in a statement that the lawmaker took part in 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.”

Capitol Police said that they repeatedly warned protesters not to block the north barricade before making the arrests around noon. 

“Just before 12:00 pm, demonstrators started blocking one side of the North Barricade outside the U.S. Capitol. We have already issued them three warnings. The demonstrators refused to move out of the driveway, so we are making arrests,” they tweeted. 

“The Capitol and the House is supposed to be the people’s house. I went… over to them to shake their hands to show them love. As I was doing that, an officer came over to me and said you’re under arrest, Bowman, whose district includes both the Bronx and Westchester, told the Bronx Times.

Bowman and 27 others were charged with “crowding, obstructing and incommoding.” 

The protest took place a day after Senate Democrats failed to garner the support necessary to make an exception to the filibuster rule to force the voting bills through the chamber. 

Bowman, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has been vocal in his calls for the Senate to abolish the filibuster and pass the election legislation. One protester who was arrested Thursday carried a sign that read: “Justice matters more than Senate rules.” 

The protesters were made up of college students, faith leaders and civil rights organizers from the advocacy group un-PAC.

On Dec. 6, 20 members of un-PAC, a nonpartisan advocacy group, launched a hunger strike outside the state capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, to encourage their senators—Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in particular—to support the Freedom to Vote Act.

“Our elected leaders were failing to act, and we took decisive action when they wouldn’t,” 27-year-old Shana Gallagher, co-founder and executive director of the group, told Mother Jones

After day 15, the students ended their hunger strike after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the Senate would take up the Freedom to Vote Act early in the upcoming session. But now that the bill did not pass, the group has started again. 

“Fifty-two of our Senators failed to protect our #FreedomToVote last night, but we did not. So proud of the young people in WV & AZ & across the country who are fighting for our #FreedomToVote. We will not give up,” Gallagher tweeted. 

In an email Thursday evening, Frias told Norwood News that Rep. Bowman has been released and is now home with his family. 

“He was proud to stand alongside activists this morning at the Capitol in support of voting rights and will continue doing everything he can to amplify the urgent need to protect our democracy,” he said.

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