Hundreds arrested as voting rights protesters descend on Hart Building

Video: Tense moments yield to civil disobedience as protesters roll in on the Hart Building 3 min

On the 2nd of August, the Poor People's Campaign's "Moral Mondays" string of voting rights protests culminated in a major civil disobedience centered on the Hart Senate Office Building. Hundreds were arrested outside after the Capitol Police refused to let them enter the building.

The demands of the protests were to totally restore the original Voting Rights Act, pass all provisions of the For the People act(voting rights), end the filibuster so as to make this possible at all, and permanent protection for ALL undocumented migrants.

Capitol Police probably thought they could keep this blockade out of the street but they were wrong. They relied on threatining the march with immediate arrest unless marchers went to the sidewalk. To avoid this Capitol Police tactic that depend on maintaining control of the streets ("Don't let them take the streets!"), protesters staged a dummy march up 1st st NE to a crosswalk near the Supreme Court, then doubled back. Capitol Police took the bait and did not hold the streets at the Hart Building, which was the actual target. Protesters got their first and held their ground.

At the intended site of the CD, threats of arrest were no longer effective in moving the marchers anywhere. There were a few tense moments when marchers turned in and went right up to the doors of the Hart Building. Organizers wanted to send "5 preachers" to knock on the doors, but the crowd followed. As things started heating up, organizers called the crowd back from the doors but communications with the front were slow. Finally the crowd pulled back. One cop having a flashback to defending another door on Jan 6 from Fascists and this whole situation could have blown, but organizers pulled it back from the brink.

Prior to Jan 6, this protest would probably have included marchers filing through the metal detectors, then holding their sit-in in the Hart Building atrium. That option probably no longer exists. As it was arrests totals were well over 200, someone reported that figure on Twitter while many were still waiting in line to be arrested. Rep Jackson Lee(D-TX) was among the arrestees even though sitting members of Congress are supposed to be "priviliged" from arrest in the Capitol complex, though it is unclear how far from the Capitol itself that applies.

There was one other dynamic here: due to numbers, the protest was far stronger than the responding Capitol Police deployment, and could easily have marched directly to the Hart building, taking the streets from the police. Such a confrontation though would have been aired by Faux News, Newsmax, etc as a progressive version of Jan 6, promoting a false equivalency between protesters and violent insurgents willing to use deadly force to overturn an election and reinstall Trump. Thus, the normal "rules of engagement trap" aspect of civil disobedience was in fact reversed, to the benefit of the cops. On the other hand, suppose these protesters do not win the demanded voting rights laws. In that case it is a near certainty that GOP voter suppression laws disqualify enough Black, Brown, and lower income voters to flip several states back to the GOP in 2024. That in turn is fully expected to return Donald Trump to the White House in Jan 2025-and to return violent battles with the Proud Boys or their successor groups to the streets of DC. Even a failed attempt by Trump to steal the 2024 election will bring far-right violence back to DC.

Protesters move in on the Hart building

The scene as some of the preachers "knock on the doors" demanding entry

Cops responding to the protest, which got ahead of them in going to the Hart building

Huge line of protesters in the civil disobedience faced arrest

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