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Dozens of protesters who gathered in Battery Park on Tuesday for a rally in support of congressional legislation protecting voting rights gave thunderous cheers after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation was announced following the close of investigations, allegations of sexual assault and impeachment talks.
“For those of you who don’t know, Andrew Cuomo has just resigned,” one speaker said as his voice was covered with applause and euphoric cries.
However, the protesters quickly pulled themselves together and moved on to the task at hand.
Standing at the foot of the East Coast Memorial in Battery Park, lawyers came decked out with medical supplies and set up a fictitious patient in the form of a mannequin with the words “democracy” scrawled on his bed sheet attached to an IV marked S1. It was intended to represent what civil rights activists see as the dire state of American democracy after many states instituted restrictive laws prohibiting people of color from voting.
The afternoon protest was part of a national day of action calling on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass the People’s Law (S.1), a bill to expand voting rights, to change campaign finance laws and to reduce the influence of money and party influence in politics.
“We are here today because democracy as we understand it is in jeopardy,” said Jawanza Williams, organization director for advocacy group VOCAL-NY. “We are here today to defend the For the People Act, which is our best defense against more than 300 absolutely racist, classist election repressions. [bills] that have been introduced all over our country. There has been a wave of white supremacist violence. January 6 was a sign of what is possible. The white supremacist insurgency was made to thwart a democratic election with the sign of what is to come. So what we are here today to emphasize is that democracy is not dead, but it is on life support. “
Williams explains that S1 is not just another voter bill, but a complete package that directly addresses the realities of voter suppression and gerrymandering today.
Supporters of the rally are pressuring Schumer to pass the bill before the August recess and not allow buccaneers to block it.
“It’s going to take government action, but it hasn’t happened because the people in power have been put in power and are maintaining their power through the influence of problematic billionaire donations,” Williams added.
But not everything went as planned. The rally proceeded despite the onset of a heat wave and the sweltering temperatures caused one attendee to pass out. An arriving ambulance stopped but did not cancel the procedure.
While the man was being treated by EMS, public lawyer Jumaane Williams supported the passage of the bill.
He added: “What we are hearing now is that people want to get back to normal during this pandemic. What we do know is that normal is not working. Normal hasn’t worked for the vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans, so we don’t want to go back to normal. We have to become better than normal. We need to put in place systems that did not exist and that caused the deaths of so many people. “
This story first appeared on AMNY.com.