“Blackest Bus in America” in Atlanta - photo by Gloria Tatum

Black Voters Matter (BVM) will travel across the South in five of the “Blackest Buses in America” to launch Freedom Rides for Voting Rights. They are part of a voter outreach campaign from Louisanna to Washington, D.C. to build Black voting power and gain support for SR 1 “For the People’s Act” and SR 4 “John Lewis Advance Voting Act.”

These two federal laws are necessary to counter the anti-democratic effects of an avalanche of voter suppression bills that target Black and Brown communities to make it harder to vote. These two bills would ensure that democracy works for everyone.

Activist holding #ForThePeopleAct poster at the #FreedomRide2021 event - photo by Gloria Tatum

The Freedom Riders will start in New Orleans, LA on June 18 with a stop in Jackson, MS; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Atlanta, GA; Columbia, SC; Raleigh, NC; Charleston, WV; Richmond, Va; and end up in Washington D.C. on Saturday, June 26. In DC, they will lobby Senators to pass SR1 and SR4 which have already passed the House of Representatives.

Today’s Freedom Riders are following in the footsteps of the 1961 Freedom Riders who rode buses through the South to protest segregated bus terminals, restrooms, and lunch counters.

“Sixty years after the original Freedom Rides, Black Americans are still facing significant barriers at the polls,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “Legislation in Georgia, Florida, and dozens of other states threatens to further disenfranchise our communities and rob us of our power. We are launching the Freedom Rides for Voting Rights to build on the legacy of the original Freedom Rides and continue to fight those same systems of racism, segregation, and voter suppression that are impacting our communities today.”

BlackVotersMatterFund.org

FREEDOM RIDERS STOP IN ATLANTA

The Freedom Riders for Voting Rights arrived at Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta on Monday, June 21, and were greeted by hundreds of citizens and Atlanta’s civil rights activists. They enjoyed Southern hospitality with music, dancing, food, and speeches on what folks in Atlanta are doing to stop Republicans from destroying democracy with voter suppression bills.

“We have to understand we are in a war and we have to go to war and your weapons are your ballots, your dollars, and your activism. We are not going back to before the civil rights bill of 1965 was passed,” Richard Rose, President of Atlanta NAACP, said to the crowd gathered outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Richard Rose, President of Atlanta National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

The reason voting rights in America need federal protection is because 18 states have passed into law more than 30 laws restricting access to the ballot that disenfranchise minority voters. There are more than 360 bills to restrict voting access that have been proposed in 47 states waiting to become law. If this descent into a dictatorship is not stopped democracy will be a thing of the past.

All these voter suppression bills are based on Trump’s “Big Lie” that he won and the election was stolen from him by massive voter fraud. Trump has not provided any evidence of voter fraud, but he knows that if he tells his “Big Lie” long enough and often enough, some people will believe it.

When Georgia turned Blue, Republicans realized demographics were changing in Georgia and they did not have the diversity to win. So they started writing voter suppression bills to make it more difficult for Black, Brown, and young people to vote in future elections.

Republicans in Georgia “… dropped over 52 anti-voting bills after we elected the first Black and Jewish U.S. Senators. They passed SB 202 which triggered over 400 voter suppression bills across the country,” but we were able to get some small victories. They tried to ban no excuse by mail and we defeated that. They tried to ban automatic voter registration and we defeated that. They tried to ban “souls to the polls” during the general election and we defeated that.”

Hillary Holley with Fair Fight Action

The most dangerous part of Georgia’s voter suppression bill, HR 202, is that it will allow the Republican-controlled legislature to replace bipartisan county election boards and appoint Republicans, thereby replacing Democrats on county election boards.

Popular Information reports that in Georgia “members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature.” Of that group, “five are people of color and most are Democrats… and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.”

“The Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, announced he is going to remove 102 thousand Georgia voters from the voter roll. If you get a notice saying you are about to be purged, please respond to it. But The majority of the 102 thousand people are going to be put in an inactive status, so the only thing you have to do is show up and vote, but if you haven’t voted in two election cycles where there is a federal candidate on the ballot you will be removed permanently.”

Helen Butler, Executive Director for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda (NCBCP)

All of these voter suppression bills are being passed in a climate of threats that are terrorizing election workers.

Reuters reports that Trump’s baseless voter-fraud accusations have sparked a campaign to terrorize election officials nationwide. Especially in contested states such as Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan. Some have faced protests at their homes or been followed in their cars. Many have received death threats.

THE DOJ, ACLU, NAACP AND OTHERS HAVE FILED LAWSUITS TO PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS.

The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia for voting restrictions with the purpose of denying the right to vote on account of race or color. The DOJ is looking at other states that have passed similar laws that violate the civil rights laws of Americans.

The DOJ will also publish new guidance that applies to all upcoming redistricting of jurisdictions, including congressional districts, state legislatures, county commission, city council and more.

A task force will be launched from the Criminal Division, the Civil Rights Division, the National Security Division and the FBI to focus on threats against election workers, volunteer poll workers and administrators.

Many lawsuits have been filed nationwide against these unconstitutional and undemocratic voter suppression bills. In Atlanta, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against HB 202. Seven other lawsuits have been filed in Georgia against the voter suppression bills.

“We believe voting should be easy for every citizen and every vote should count the same. It’s bittersweet to stand here 56 years after the march from Selma to Montgomery still fighting for the right to vote. We must have a John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

Andrea Young, Executive Director of ACLU Georgia

Americans’ access to the vote is in unprecedented peril. But Congress can protect it. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the For The People Act passed by the House and now awaiting action in the Senate would block many of the state-level restrictions that have been or may soon be enacted into law.

If democracy is to survive it will depend on the passage of SR1 and SR 4 in the United States Senate. In a 50-50 divided Senate, every Democrat is needed to vote for SR1 and SR 4 for it to pass. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) cling to the filibuster as more important than voting rights or democracy.

We have people on all sides trying to destroy our democracy, so we are going to stand together and demand that Black Voters Matter. We will fight for our right to vote, we will not allow white supremacy to win,” Rev. James Woodall, State President Georgia NAACP, promised.

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Editor's Note: this story first appeared on the author's blog - StreetsOfAtlanta.blog.
Image Credits: The feature illustration was created for BlackVotersMatterFund.org (promotional/fair use); the photos in the story were taken by the author, Gloria Tatum.

Editor's Note: this story first appeared on the author's blog - StreetsOfAtlanta.blog.
Image Credits: The feature illustration was created for BlackVotersMatterFund.org (promotional/fair use); the photos in the story were taken by the author, Gloria Tatum.

Gloria Tatum

Gloria Tatum

I'm a 50 year social justice activist turned reporter.

I was the first wave of feminism in Atlanta and a member of the National Organization of Women.

Later I moved on to Civil Rights, LGBT Rights, anti-war, environmental issues, pro-Palestinian, Native American Rights, Black Lives Matter, police violence, Climate Change, etc. I have never met a progressive issue I did not support.

I monitored klan activity in North Georgia, was attacked by the Klan, sued the Klan and won.

I was a part of a church group of volunteers that went to Nicaragua to be human shields on the Honduran border to prevent the U.S. supported Contras from killing impoverished peasants.

I attended a Social Forum in Venezuela and witnessed the poverty and the social reforms implemented by Hugo Chavez to help the poor. The poor loved Chavez and the rich hated him because he took from the rich and gave to the poor.

As part of Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace, I was arrested with a dozen other Grandmothers protesting the Iraq War.

I was part of a cultural exchange program to Cuba and was impressed with the free medical clinics and education programs for Cubans.

I joined the Grannies Respond Caravan and traveled to Brownsville Texas, to support immigrants when the Trump administration separated children from their parents and put them in detention camps.

I consider myself a Democratic Socialists and a humanitarian.