Rev. Jesse Jackson Among Those Arrested at Protest Outside Capitol Over Stalled Voting Rights Bill

Jackson, Rev. William Barber and about 20 other activists were reportedly detained at the peaceful demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday

Jesse jackson
Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. William Barber and about 20 other activists were among those arrested after a nonviolent protest outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, multiple news outlets report.

Jackson, the 79-year-old civil rights leader, spoke at a demonstration in Washington, D.C., organized by the Poor People's Campaign to protest the filibuster used by Republicans to block a voting rights bill in Congress, according to local station WTTG.

After leading a crowd in a march to the Capitol, Jackson and Barber were arrested for alleged crowding or obstructing, WTTG reported.

It was unclear Thursday how long they were held or what penalties they might face.

A spokesperson for the Capitol Police did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

In a speech, Jackson hinted that he anticipated being arrested during the protest, saying according to Religion News Service, "We come not as an insurrection group, but as a resurrection group," adding that "today we must fill up the jails."

On CNN's Cuomo Prime Time on Wednesday night, Barber spoke about the arrests and the importance of voters' rights.

"We need people to be able to vote freely and fairly. 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."

William J. Barber and Jesse Jackson
William J. Barber and Jesse Jackson
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Shutterstock

The For the People Act stalled in the Senate on Tuesday after it fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP-backed filibuster. The procedural vote of 50-50 meant that the bill did not move to the floor for a debate or an amendment process that would shape the eventual legislation.

Anticipating the outcome in advance of the vote, Democrats were already criticizing Republicans for their opposition, saying voting against such a measure was akin to denying people the right to vote.

The GOP, which has supported a raft of voting restrictions across the country to combat fraud that experts say doesn't exist at a widespread level, said this legislation would have intruded on local authority over elections. Other Republicans say their position is about ensuring election integrity.

William J. Barber and Jesse Jackson

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."

On Wednesday, a group of civil rights organizations announced that they would host a "March On for Voting Rights" Aug. 28 to coincide with the 58th anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"It disheartens me to say that as a country and society, we are not even close to where my father hoped we would be since delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech 58 years ago," Martin Luther King III, chairman of the Board for the Drum Major Institute, said in a press release announcing the march. "I think my father would be greatly disappointed in where we are at this particular moment, but he would not give up on the nation."

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