Jesse Jackson arrested after protesting over voting rights bill

The longtime civil rights activist was arrested outside the U.S. Capitol

Rev. Jesse Jackson was arrested after a nonviolent protest outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. 

Jackson, 79, along with Rev. William Barber II and about 20 other activists were among those arrested for obstructing during a Poor People’s Campaign demonstration at the U.S. Capitol on June 23, local station WTTG reported. 

The Poor People’s Campaign held the demonstration in response to the filibuster used by Republicans to block a voting rights bill in Congress. 

Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson leads a group from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in a protest outside the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare International Airport on April 12, 2017. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

As previously reported on theGrio, the Democrats’ sweeping attempt to rewrite U.S. election and voting law suffered a major setback in the Senate Tuesday, blocked by a filibuster wall of Republican opposition to what would be the largest overhaul of the electoral system in a generation.

Prior to the vote, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass the measure, tweeting, “We can’t sit idly by while democracy is in peril – here, in America. We need to protect the sacred right to vote and ensure ‘We the People’ choose our leaders, the very foundation on which our democracy rests. We urgently need the For The People Act. Send it to my desk.”

The bill, known as the For the People Act, would touch on virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted, striking down hurdles to voting that advocates view as the civil rights fight of the era, while also curbing the influence of money in politics and limiting partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.

But many in the GOP say the measure is meant to ultimately benefit Democrats. It failed on a 50-50 vote after Republicans, some of whom derided the bill as the Screw the People Act, denied Democrats the 60 votes needed to begin debate under Senate rules. 

During the Poor People’s Campaign event on Wednesday, Jackson expected to be arrested.

According to the Religion News Service, he said in a speech “We come not as an insurrection group, but as a resurrection group,” adding that “today we must fill up the jails.”

It’s unclear how long Jackson and the others were detained. Capitol police said that Jackson and the other protesters were arrested for crowding/obstructing, according to Fox 5.

“We need people to be able to vote freely and fairly,” Barber said on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time on Wednesday night.

He also spoke about the arrest, saying “The people led us today, and they said since [Sen. Joseph] Manchin and [Sen. Mitch] McConnell wouldn’t answer them for a meeting … and they said we’re willing to put our bodies on the line. This is not optional. We cannot have voter suppression in this country.”

In related news, a ‘March On for Voting Rights’ event has been planned by a group of civil rights leader set for Aug. 28. The rally will coincide with the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, PEOPLE reports.

This story contains additional reporting from the Associated Press.

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