Thousands gather at UN for voting rights

NEW YORK — They came in the thousands to let the forces of reaction know that their voting rights – rights that were fought and died for – will not be taken away. The March started from the Koch brothers‘ offices and headed to the United Nations where the rally took place.

There is a sinister movement in America by the right and far right to disenfranchise millions of voters. The far-right Koch brothers are channeling millions of dollars to the Republicans to do the dirty work of depriving the poor working class, especially people of color, of their right to vote.

Louise Legun with the Veterans for Peace from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania declared, “I’m here in solidarity with the people who are being disenfranchised from voting, especially people of color. We drove up from Pennsylvania and it’s great to be here. I’m from Reading; Reading is the poorest city in the nation, poorer than Flint, Michigan. And we are in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the 99 percent, so we are all in this together.”

The NAACP called the action in order to inform the public of the attempt to deny people their right to vote. Local 1199 of SEIU (the Service workers), the United Federation of Teachers, the Urban League, the Professional Staff Congress, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, DC 37, and community groups such as, Make the Road joined the American Civil Liberties Union, college students and many others at both the march and rally.

“Voter ID laws are nothing but reincarnated poll taxes and literacy tests, and ex-felon voting bans serve the same purpose today as when they were created in the wake of the 15th Amendment guaranteeing ex-slaves the vote – suppressing voting numbers among people of color,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous in remarks he made before the rally.

Georgia, Texas and Florida are three of the states leading the charge in creating ways to block access to the ballot box; some fourteen states in all have passed legislation. These states are experiencing explosive growth in minority voter turnout and population growth.

New York State Sen. Charles Schumer said, “We have an obligation that started with the patriots who put down their plows and took up their muskets so that they could vote; remember what they said? No taxation without representation. Let us vote!”

He continued, “And when America started, you had to be a white, male Protestant property owner to vote. The majority of people could not vote and through the blood and sweat and tears of so many that vote was extended finally to everybody.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, to cheers of “No Justice, No Peace,” said, “Two Jews and a Black named Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner died to give us the right to vote; Jimmy Lee Jackson  died to give us the right to vote, did nobody donate us the right to vote, did nobody give us the right to vote, we fought to get it and we are going to fight to keep it.”

Dec. 10 was designated International Human Rights Day at the UN. The NAACP, on this date in 1948, also at the UN, issued its famous Declaration of Human Rights.

Cameron Watkins who heads a college chapter of the NAACP had this to say about voting rights: “There are certain companies out there that are seeking to take away our voting rights. We are college students and we want to make sure we can vote in this upcoming election. This is an atrocity and needs to be stopped. That’s why we are here today.”

“Voter suppression is evil it is a right wing conspiracy to take voting rights away from people of color; folks who have paid their debt to society who have gotten out of jail; folks who are recently immigrated who are lining up who want to become voters and on and on. Five million people stand to lose their vote around the country; some restrictions have already passed in several states. It’s an atrocity,” said Tom Gogan, who is with U.S. Labor Against the War.

Photo: Union workers and NAACP members at a rally and march from the offices of Koch Industries to United Nations headquarters, Dec. 10, in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP)



Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.