In a tweet posted after her arrest, Democrat Joyce Beatty wrote: "You can arrest me. You can't stop me. You can't silence me"

By Virginia Chamlee
July 16, 2021 12:49 PM
Joyce Beatty
Joyce Beatty
| Credit: Alex Wong/Getty

The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus was among those detained by U.S. Capitol Police on Thursday as a group of activists protested for voting rights at a Senate office building in Washington, D.C. 

Rep. Joyce Beatty, 71, was part of the group of activists who gathered in the Hart Senate office building to condemn Republican-backed laws they say will restrict access to voting, particularly among people of color and those in rural and lower-income communities.  

"Today we're sending a strong message," Beatty told reporters as she entered the building. "We have Black leaders from across the country ... Look at where we stand. We stand in the United States Senate. Places that we couldn't work — we couldn't even clean at one time. But today, Black women say we are not waiting. Black women say that we're demanding our right to vote. And it starts today."

While the group chanted "fight for justice," and "end the filibuster" in the building's atrium, they were warned by Capitol Police that they were in an unauthorized area and could therefore be arrested.

Roughly three minutes after that warning, Beatty was handcuffed in zip-ties as she continued to chant.

Beatty shared a photo of her arrest on Twitter along with the caption: "Let the people vote. Fight for justice."

The Democrat recounted the experience in an interview with MSNBC's The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell.

"We were warned that after three warnings we would be subject to being arrested," she told O'Donnell, adding that the members of the group "were in our moment. We felt like John Lewis and Martin Luther King. When they organized and protested, it made a difference."

In another tweet posted later in the day, Beatty wrote: "You can arrest me. You can't stop me. You can't silence me."

Election laws have become a national political flashpoint of late, with activists arguing that measures like one recently passed in Georgia make voting more difficult for minority voters.

Democrats have grown increasingly vocal in their fight against the Republican-backed measures and their support of federal bills such as the For the People Act (which is stalled in the Senate) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would require certain jurisdictions to receive approval from the federal government before making changes to their voting rules.

Earlier this week, Democratic lawmakers in Texas fled the state aboard two chartered jets in a surprise move meant to temporarily deny Republicans the ability to pass election reforms they say would make it harder to vote.

Conservatives say such measures — which in some cases echo Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election — are needed to ensure election integrity despite no evidence of widespread fraud.

In a statement issued after her arrest, Beatty said the detainment was "just the beginning" in the fight to protect voter rights.

"I stand in solidarity with Black women and allies across the country in defense of our constitutional right to vote," the statement read. "We have come too far and fought too hard to see everything systematically dismantled and restricted by those who wish to silence us. Be assured that this is just the beginning. This is Our Power, Our Message."