The assault on voting rights and voting practices drew loud and targeted protest in New York City Dec. 11 as a coalition made up of civil rights, organized labor and community advocacy organizations staged a march and rally they called the Stand for Freedom in midtown Manhattan.
The rally, attended by approximately 25,000 demonstrators, according to one estimate, marked the vanguard of a counter-assault on the drive to erode voting rights, according to its organizers who say voting rights for minorities are under siege.
The coalition initiating the march and rally included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, and the American Civil Liberties Union, the demonstraters rallied against efforts by lawmakers in 34 states to undermine voter rights and zeroed in on 14 states where such laws have been passed. They also are trying to block attacks on early voting, Sunday voting and same-day registration.
“Voting rights are being challenged all across the United States,” said Diane Sanders, an organizer with 1199SEIU. “People have died for the right to vote. We can’t just sit by and let our rights be taken from us.”
She spoke after coalition of the various groups marched to the United Nations from the New York offices of Koch Industries, targeted by protesters as the financial spark that allegedly has helped ignite the legislative surge to roll back or inhibit voting rights.
“If successful, these laws would disenfranchise well over five million voters. That’s more people than live in Manhattan, Bronx, and, I think, Staten Island put together, and that’s not what democracy should be about,” said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“You can’t accomplish anything if you’re not prepared to fight,” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), wearing a hat with embroidered with “NAACP”, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“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.
A Koch spokesman denied a company role in anti-voter rights efforts. “Koch has taken no position on the voter ID issue, which is why these groups are wrong and completely misguided in their false accusations,” company spokesman Bill O’Reilly said in a statement.