The Democracy Initiative and Allies Celebrate Conclusion of America's Journey for Justice

More than 1,000 activists and advocates joined together at the U.S. Capitol to rally for voting rights and educate elected leaders about the need for a restored Voting Rights Act.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Washington, DC – Today, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, more than a thousand activists and advocates from as far away as Michigan and Texas, came together to celebrate the conclusion of America’s Journey for Justice. Organized by the NAACP and supported by member organizations of the Democracy Initiative, the 1,000-mile march from Selma, AL, to Washington, DC to demand voting rights centered on the message that our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter.

Check out this Storify highlighting the conclusion of the march and the legislative advocacy day rally this morning.

Continue reading for statements from member organizations and allies of the Democracy Initiative. 

From Larry Cohen, Democracy Initiative Chair: 

“Voting rights are fundamental to democracy and it is outrageous that Congress continues to shirk their duty to the American people by not restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Since the 2013 Shelby decision, there hasn't even been a single meaningful hearing. 

“This is completely unacceptable. While millions of people across the country find their constitutional right to vote under threat, Congress sits by and continues to ignore the problem. That is why we are mobilizing millions more to stand up and fight back to build a stronger democracy where every voice is heard and every vote is counted.” 

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President: 

“Our short walk today across the Memorial Bridge, from the gravesites of thousands who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of human freedom to this temple honoring the architect of emancipation, ends a long march from Selma to Washington. 

“But this is not the end of America’s Journey for Justice. 

“From Selma to Washington and indeed in every corner of our country, that journey must continue. This march has reminded the nation that we still have some distance to travel before we realize the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of from these steps a half-century ago. 

“Tomorrow, many of us here will carry that message directly to our representatives at the other end of the National Mall. Common Cause is a citizens’ lobby, with 400,000 members and supporters across the country who are committed to the fight for every American’s right to easy access to the ballot box and a full opportunity to make their voices heard in every election, not just once every four years. 

“We salute our friends at the NAACP for their leadership. On behalf of Common Cause and our partner organizations in the Democracy Initiative, we are proud to have marched with them and so many other Americans of goodwill over the past seven weeks. Some of the signs you see in the audience today are messages sent by Common Causers from across the country to support those who undertook this thousand-mile journey; they speak for an America that too many of us feel has been missing from our national dialogue, one that says that we’re all in this together.” 

From Chris Shelton Communications Workers of America (CWA) President: 

“All along the 860-mile journey, CWA members have been proud participants in ‘America's Journey for Justice,’ pushing back against new attacks on the right to vote across the country. 

“From Selma, Ala., to Washington, D.C., we’ve joined our allies and followed in the footsteps of the past generation of civil rights leaders who at great personal cost stood for the rights of all to fully participate in our nation and our democracy. 

“Today, just as 50 years ago, we must build a movement to secure our freedom. This means freedom from want, by expanding good jobs and fair wages, and as well as our democratic freedoms, like the right to vote. That’s the only way to ensure a truly participatory democracy by and for the people. 

“We’ll be taking that message to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who must declare which side they’re on: the side of justice and democracy for all or the extremists who continue to assault our democracy.   

“CWA is proud to stand with the NAACP and all our partners in the Democracy Initiative who are part of the Journey for Justice. Only by joining together as we’re doing today, can we create a society and a community where everyone has an equal voice and an equal chance.” 

From Aaron Mair, Sierra Club President: 

“On behalf of the Sierra Club’s 2.4 million members and supporters, I’m proud to have marched with the NAACP as we crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge to D.C., completing this historic and important journey that brought the call of justice along with every footstep taken. 

“In many ways, this is not the end of the journey, but the beginning. To change everything, we need everyone -- and that begins with securing fundamental rights like equal access to the ballot box. In order to make the changes we need to address real-world issues like climate disruption, all Americans need to be able to participate in our democracy, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background. 

“The Sierra Club is working with the NAACP and our other partners in the Democracy Initiative to help move toward a democracy that truly represents all Americans.  To do so, Congress needs to update and strengthen the Voting Rights Act -- which was gutted just two years ago -- and support the Voting Rights Advancement Act.  As the Journey for Justice demonstrates, the time to act is now.” 

Click here for the complete statement. 

From Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA Executive Director: 

“For over a month, marchers, activists and organizers have walked 1,000 miles from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC in a passionate call for justice and democracy. Though the march is ending today, its success will be determined by how we all continue to carry the call for justice forward. 

“Corporate interests and billionaires continue to buy our elections and restrict voting rights, with devastating consequences for our health, climate and environment, but we have people power on our side. Step by step, Americans are working to fulfill the promise of a democracy that works for everyone. There is no better place to start than at the US Capitol today where people from all over the country will rally for the restoration of voting rights and remind our elected leaders who they actually represent.” 

Click here for the complete release. 

From Leslie Proll, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Washington Director: 

“This march should be a wake-up call for Congress,” says Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington office. “America’s Journey for Justice focused--in a powerful and sustained way--on inequalities in voting, education, jobs and our criminal justice system. Now, our attention turns to Capitol Hill, where we call upon lawmakers to eliminate these persistent disparities, starting with restoration of the Voting Rights Act.”   

Click here for the complete release. 

From Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President: 

“Today we stand with the NAACP and the Journey for Justice marchers to say our lives matter, our votes matter and that all working people deserve access to good jobs and a fair economy that benefits everyone and not just the wealthy and privileged few.” 

Click here to read the complete statement. 

From Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director: 

“This summer we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic Voting Rights Act. And as we have seen — year in, year out, with one voter suppression tactic after another — the need for the VRA is as important today as it was when it was first enacted. Two years ago we faced a tremendous set back when the Court issued Shelby and gutted the VRA. 

“To this day, people are being turned away at the polls and voter suppression disproportionately impacts people of color, people living in poverty, and the LGBTQ community. Our democracy is too important to be ignored. We can’t get important legislation passed, good legislators elected, or contribute our voices to the future of this country unless we are registered to vote and are actually able to vote.” 

Click here for the complete release. 

From Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International President: 

“What a profound and inspiring journey. The marchers who began at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma six weeks ago embraced the idea of an exercise that would challenge them physically, mentally and spiritually, and they arrived in Washington stronger. 

“Now it is time for Congress to heed the call of these marchers, who said, ‘Our lives, our votes, our jobs and our schools count.’ Working women and men across the country and here in the nation’s capital echo this demand for justice. 

“On behalf of the 2 million members of the Service Employees International Union, I congratulate and salute the ‘Journey for Justice’ marchers.” 

From Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice President: 

“Today, a 1,000 mile march from Selma, Ala. to Washington, D.C., called the Journey for Justice, reaches its conclusion.  The march, led by the NAACP, highlights the urgent need to fight income equality, guarantee equal educational opportunity, reform our criminal justice system and guarantee the right to vote. 

“We commend the leaders and members of the NAACP for more than a century of leadership on this journey; we are proud to march beside them.” 

From Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights President & CEO: 

“Today is not only the culmination of a historic 1,000 mile march from Selma, it’s the continuation of a march for civil and human rights that began generations ago. We applaud the unwavering strength and courage of all the men and women who joined this journey in the name of equality and freedom, and we are proud to call on Congress to protect the fundamental rights and dignity of each and every American. 

“In the half-century since blood was spilled on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, our nation has witnessed rampant racial profiling and discrimination in our criminal justice system, widening economic and educational disparities, and the loss of crucial voting rights protections.  We should not have to demand the right to vote again. It is unacceptable for the United States, the greatest democracy on earth, to have weaker voting protections than it did half a century ago. 

“We can’t continue to turn the clock back on progress.  Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act, it must fix our criminal justice system, and it must work to ensure that all children receive the quality education they need and deserve. It’s time for Congress to get to work on making our country a more fair and just nation for all people.”

From Nick Nyhart, Every Voice Center President and CEO: 

“In order to advance democracy, it is crucial that we recognize our nation’s failure to ensure justice for all including protecting every American's basic right to vote. Americans want a government of, by, and for the people, but instead we have a rule of the money over the will of the many. The historic 1000-mile march by America’s Journey for Justice brings this message directly to the doorstep of our nation's leaders. Our nation’s journey for justice will not be over until everyone has a voice and a vote in our elections, and politicians are answerable to the people on issues of criminal justice, jobs, and education." 

From Heather McGhee, Demos President: 

“Demos is proud to stand with the participants of America's Journey for Justice from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. to demand full and equal voting rights for every American. It is fitting that today is Constitution Day. We honor the sacrifice of those who fought before us to realize the dream of a truly equal democracy, and take up the mantle to end voting discrimination and to expand political participation.  

“We call on Congress to act to restore the Voting Rights Act. We are stronger together, and at this critical moment we cannot afford to take one step back. Instead, we must move forward to build a movement to achieve political and economic equality in America, so each of us has an equal say and an equal chance.” 

From George Goehl, National People’s Action Executive Director: 

“Since our nation’s founding, our democracy has favored white men, and particularly wealthy white men. And yet, many of our most beautiful moments as a country have been when we have come together to demand equality, shared prosperity, and broad participation in civic life. The abolitionist, women’s suffrage and civil rights movements made the United States a more just and democratic county. Now, with our democracy suffering from new attacks, every member of Congress should unite behind the marchers who have traveled from Selma and support the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.” 

From Michael Slater, Project Vote President: 

“America’s Journey for Justice makes it clear to Congress, as well as 2016 presidential candidates, that American voters demand equal rights and protection in our criminal justice system, our democracy, our work places, and our schools. Today, we are calling for a national advocacy agenda that protects the rights of every American.” 

Click here for the complete statement. 

From Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, Advancement Project Director of Voter Protection: 

“We support all who advocate for the swift passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act. This bi-partisan measure is the only bill that will fully protect voters of color in states where there is an ongoing history of discrimination in voting: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. The Advancement Act also includes essential protections in all states, by requiring federal review of voting practices that are known to be discriminatory, before they are test-driven in elections, and does not exclude strict voter ID laws. The tenants of a just democracy require that all eligible voters have free and fair access to the ballot box. The Advancement Act provides direly-needed protection for the most sacred of our rights; the right to vote. We applaud the efforts communities around the country are making to support this legislation, and we support organizers as they march on to Capitol Hill.” 

Click here for the complete statement.

From Marcia Johnson-Blanco, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Voting Rights Project Co-Director: 

“America’s Journey for Justice Advocacy Day is an important opportunity to amplify our demand that Congress restore the VRA. At stake is the first presidential election in which voters will lack the Act’s full protections. This cannot stand. The Lawyers’ Committee remains steadfast with its partners in defending the hard-won victories secured by Americans who believed that the right to vote was worth their lives and to call on Congress to ensure that all Americans have a voice.” 

Click here for the complete statement.

From Larry Hanley, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) President: 

“The Amalgamated Transit Union is proud to stand united with the Democracy Initiative and the NAACP, as they complete the1,000-mile Journey for Justice to show the nation that ‘our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter.’ The message they bring to Washington couldn’t be more important.

“Democracy is critically endangered when black lives are snuffed out in an instant and justice is denied; when the “ruling class” makes it difficult for poor people to vote; when a full time job won’t provide the means to sustain even a meager livelihood; when generations of underprivileged families are trapped in a marginal existence by inadequate education, and the wealth gap continues to grow. 

“That’s why what you’re doing here in Washington is so important.  You have come a thousand miles not just for yourselves, but to save our country from the fatal consequences of systemic and economic injustice.

“History shows that society cannot advance without the prophetic voices of people like you who speak truth to power.  ATU fully supports the goals of your march, and commends you for bringing this crucial message to our elected officials on Capitol Hill.  

 From Rob Weissman, Public Citizen President: 

“‘Inspiring’ is the word that best sums up the Journey for Justice, a march that began in Selma, Ala., and ends this week in Washington, D.C.

“Marchers have chanted, waved signs and, above all, kept walking – some of them along the entire 1,000-mile path of the march. They have done so in the name of justice and democracy, to call attention to economic inequality, the dire need for criminal justice reform, the appalling rollback of voting rights and the critical need for education reform.

“Today, they will descend on the Capitol to deliver a message to lawmakers: “Our lives, our votes, our jobs and our schools matter.” They are advancing an agenda that aims to protect the right of every American to a fair criminal justice system, uncorrupted and unfettered access to the ballot box, sustainable jobs with a living wage, and equitable public education.

“Fifty years after Selma, our country still has a long way to go in pursuit of racial and economic justice. The ongoing epidemic of police violence against African-Americans – not new, but newly documented by cell phone videographers – is just one reminder. But Selma also reminds us that it is protest and mobilization that drives forward the pursuit of justice and democracy, which is why the NAACP’s inspiring action is so important.

“The Journey for Justice message cannot and will not be ignored. We applaud the NAACP for organizing this event and call on policymakers to listen to marchers’ stories and heed their call for justice.” 

From National Action Network: 

“National Action Network (NAN) applauds the NAACP and supporting organizations for completing “America’s Journey for Justice” – the 1000 mile march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC, to call for fairness in the criminal justice system, equity in education and employment, and voter protection under the law. In conjunction with the culmination of this march, NAN supports the NAACP’s Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, an important opportunity for Congressional and Senate leaders to hear about the need to restore the Voting Rights Act and other key measures. The NAACP has been a longtime partner of NAN in the fight for justice around key civil rights issues and we are pleased that our members and staff supported this historic call to action.” 

From Bob Brandon, Fair Elections Legal Network President: 

“The Journey for Justice illustrates the long way our nation has come in terms of voting rights and other social issues that impact all Americans. This day of advocacy highlights that there is still work to be done and a long way to go on this path to make sure every citizen has access to basic rights like voting, education and a living wage. We applaud the NAACP and the many supporters who have traveled far and wide and raised a great deal of awareness throughout their journey.” 

From Emma Boorboor, U.S. PIRG Election Reform Campaign Director: 

“Following yesterday’s arrival of America’s Journey for Justice 1,000-mile march from Selma, U.S. PIRG today joined nearly 1,000 NAACP and Democracy Initiative activists for an Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Today’s efforts build on new momentum to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), legislation that would prevent discriminatory voting restrictions in every state. 

“Two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down a key piece of the Voting Rights Act that required states and local governments with a history of discrimination to receive federal approval before changing their election practices. Since that decision, we have seen a wave of new state laws that increase barriers to voting, with low-income and minority communities particularly hard hit. In 2014 our country saw the lowest voter turnout since World War II, proving we need more participation not less. 

“In a functioning democracy we should ensure every eligible voter can cast a ballot. When all voices are heard, we’ll see more action on issues Americans care about, issues people marched 1,000 miles to raise up. 

“It is past time for Congress to act to restore the health of our democracy and pass the VRAA. But we are making progress – the VRAA now has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, putting us in fighting distance of the biggest voting rights win in decades.”

From Jon Fox, Friends of the Earth Senior Democracy Campaigner: 

“If we want to protect our planet for future generations, Friends of the Earth believes we must deepen and strengthen our democracy. Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, it is now time for Congress to restore and protect the right to vote for all Americans, and ensure that no American faces discrimination at the polls. 

“America set the standard for participatory democracy, yet in 2015 there are still Americans who are fighting to exercise their basic right to vote and be heard. 

“Today’s rally sent a clear message to Congress. It’s time to protect the rights and voice of all Americans by passing the new Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and more than 85 other cosponsors in the House.” 

Click here for the complete statement. 

From Democracy Matters Institute: 

"Democracy Matters stands with the values that have propelled the NAACPs outstanding work organizing "America's Journey for Justice". Restoring the VRA and ensuring equal representation under the law for all voters is a critical part of a movement to restore a democracy that works for everyone."

 

###

The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 58 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.