Pace e Bene board member Rev. Lennox Yearwood took part in a nonviolent action in Washington, DC on Wednesday along with numerous others to protest against the first meeting of Trump’s election commission. Below is their recent press release.
Washington D.C. — Today, while Trump’s “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” met for the first time, a broad coalition of advocacy groups held a rally outside the White House to protest the Administration’s attack on voting rights and personal privacy. President Trump has stated that he established the commission in an attempt to validate his baseless claim that 3-5 million Americans voted illegally during the 2016 elections. Yet by virtue of the commission’s appointees, beginning with its chair, Vice President Mike Pence, and vice-chair, Kris Kobach, it is clear that the real purpose of the commission is to justify the creation of more barriers to voting for eligible voters.
Speeches by leaders from the cultural, environmental, advocacy, and voting and civil rights groups were interrupted by the Secret Service, who pushed the crowd back several hundred yards and taped off the grounds of Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Square Park. The crowd of several hundred people moved to the corners of H and 16th Street NW, where the rally resumed in the near 100 degree heat. The conversation also grew online, with #RespectMyVote trending on Twitter in the United States throughout the day. Immediately following the rally, the Secret Service removed the tape and opened the park back up to the public.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, President & CEO, Hip Hop Caucus: Voting is the fundamental right of our democracy. Comprised of well known and proven voter-suppressors, the President’s new commission is a blatant attack on that fundamental right we have as Americans. Instead of focusing on solutions to protect our rights and privacy, this Administration has decided to replicate the worst from this country’s past. They have decided that those who are the most vulnerable in our country – young people, seniors, people of color – need to have more between them and the ballot box. We have seen all of this before. And just as Dr. King and so many others did throughout this country’s history, we are going to fight with everything we have to protect our voting rights. They will #RespectMyVote.
Vanita Gupta, President & CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “Voting is our most foundational right as American citizens. Our democracy is stronger when every eligible citizen can cast their vote and have it counted. We all should be working to make voting easier and more accessible, not undermining our elections for partisan gain. So we will fight alongside our Leadership Conference coalition members and our allies to stop this sham voter commission from pursuing its agenda of suppressing voter turnout and kicking eligible citizens off voter rolls.”
Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen: “‘Integrity’ is not a word one would normally associate with the Trump administration. Here’s a simple statement of truth: The purpose of Trump’s Electoral Intimidation Commission is to suppress the vote of African Americans, Latinos and young people. In light of American history, it’s about as disgraceful a purpose as can be.”
Miles Rapoport, Former Connecticut Secretary of State. “As a former Secretary of the State, I know there are major issues about our election system that need fixing. Our election equipment is outdated and there is no money for replacement. Many barriers remain to full participation. And the cybersecurity threats from Russia and others are towering over us. This commission’s predetermined focus on fraud by voters is 180 degrees off course. We should wipe the slate clean and start all over again.”
Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative: “Our right to vote is too important to leave it in the hands of politicians who want to play games. We stand together to say “Don’t mess with our vote!” It’s time for this Administration to respect the American people by focusing on making our elections secure, modern, and accessible to all citizens. We need to invest in election infrastructure to give local clerks and administrators the tools and resources to do their job. At a time when we need more participation in our democracy, not less, to address issues like healthcare, school funding and climate change we are not going to let politicians shrink our vote.”
Melanie Campbell, President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation: “The ‘Voter Election Commission’ is an assault on our democracy and was created based on a falsehood that there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 Presidential Election. This Commission is nothing more than a voter suppression tactic to deny voters a right to participate in a barrier free democracy. We stand in solidarity with our civil rights and social justice colleagues to fight against this commission and all unjust attacks against our voting rights.”
Gene Karpinkski, President, League of Conservation Voters: “The Trump administration’s new ‘Presidential Commission on Election Integrity’ is nothing short of an attack on our democracy, an attack that is inextricably linked to the fight to save our planet. We know that the leaders of this sham commission, Kris Kobach and Mike Pence, have championed voter suppression efforts that systematically targeted people of color and youth—communities that care deeply about environmental issues and are among the most affected by pollution and climate change. This is a crisis for the people experiencing climate change firsthand and therefore, a crisis for the environmental movement to act on immediately.”
Page Gardner, Founder & President, The Voter Participation Center: “The Pence-Kobach Commission is an illegitimate exercise filled with people who have a history of erecting barriers for eligible voters and targeting minority voters. The Commission has already driven thousands of eligible voters to deregister. That’s why we are thrilled and honored to join forces with state and national partners to redouble our registration efforts, to fight these intimidation efforts and make sure every eligible American votes.”
Diallo Brooks, Director of Outreach & Partner Engagement, People For the American Way: “Trump’s sham voter commission was specifically designed to help justify efforts to make it harder for Americans, especially people of color, to cast a ballot. So far the commission has already led to voters cancelling their registrations in states around the country. Restricting the right to vote is an affront to our values and our democracy. This is why we are gathered here today to protest the commission’s intimidation tactics and ensure that all citizens have the right to vote.”
Todd Cox, Director of Policy, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – Legal Defense & Educational Fund: “This commission is not designed to protect our elections, but to undermine them. After all, a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to cast a fraudulent ballot. We must be perfectly clear: the President created this so-called Commission on Election Integrity to deliver on his false allegations of voter fraud. We must work together to end this voter suppression scheme and direct assault on our nation’s fundamental democratic values.”
Participating groups included: Hip Hop Caucus, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, American Civil Liberties Union, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Common Cause, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, People Demanding Action, Rock the Vote, UniteBlue, 350, WE ACT on Environmental Justice, Sojourners, The Voter Participation Center, League of Conservation Voters, Howard University Student Association, Democracy Initiative, The Transformative Justice Coalition, Progressive Democrats of America, The Voting Rights Alliance, Pace e Bene and Campaign Nonviolence, and Democracy Spring.