Voting Rights Activists Are Planning a Selma-Style March in Texas

“This is our season of escalation.”
July 19, 2021, 1:50pm
Demonstrators are gathered outside of the Texas State Capitol during a voting rights rally on the first day of the 87th Legislature's special session on July 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas.
Demonstrators are gathered outside of the Texas State Capitol during a voting rights rally on the first day of the 87th Legislature's special session on July 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tamir Kalifa / Getty Images)

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A Selma-style march for voting rights is planned next week in Texas after weeks of activism in the state and across the nation to pass measures to protect access to voting. 

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Reverend Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, told VICE News that his organization is leading a Selma-to-Montgomery style, four-day march from Georgetown, Texas to the statehouse in Austin where there will be a rally. The 27 mile trek will be spread out across several days, starting Tuesday, July 27 and ending Friday, July 30, to ensure activists don’t get sick in soaring summer temperatures. 

“We’ve got to start understanding that the attack on voting rights is an attack on the possibility of democracy,” he told VICE News in a phone call on Sunday. 

Georgetown was selected as the starting point due to the town’s history in taking down the Klu Klux Klan, Barber said. In 1923, the town's district attorney convicted four members of the local Ku Klux Klan for assaulting a traveling salesman. This legal action against the Klan in Texas was unusual at the time, as the white supremacist organization was deeply embedded in state politics.

The Texas march will tie into a summer of "non-violent action” that the Poor People’s Campaign has organized as they advocate for progressive initiatives like voting rights, a $15 minimum wage, and the end of the filibuster. Their events have already included protests in Senator Joe Manchin’s West Virginia and a recent event at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. 

Democrats in the Texas statehouse have made national headlines in recent weeks as they've fled the state and denied a quorum in order to try to block the restrictive Republican-backed voting bill. Since arriving in Washington, D.C. last week, members have met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the Vice President.

Today, the Poor People’s Campaign will demonstrate outside the Supreme Court on the anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, gathering women from around the country to protest voting rights and the $15 minimum wage.

For Barber, the attacks on voting rights in statehouses across the country constitute an attack on all Americans. “It's not race or class,” he said. “It's race and class.”

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“We’re not just talking to the statehouse [in Austin]. We’re there to say to the Congress: we need congressional help. We need federal movement,” Barber added. “The only way to that is through the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.” 

The For the People Act, a sweeping legislative attempt to standardize elections and overhaul the campaign finance system, recently failed to advance in a procedural vote in the Senate. All Republicans voted against the measure, killing the bill using the Senate filibuster, a rule that any senator can use to require sixty or more votes in order to advance a piece of legislation.

Barber says the passage of the two major federal voting rights bills is “Not either or. We’re not looking for a carve out. We’re looking for an end to the filibuster, period.”

“This is our season of escalation,” added Barber.