‘Black voters, they matter here’: Rep. Hank Johnson arrested protesting filibuster

He was the second House lawmaker arrested in two weeks

Rep. Hank Johnson, center, and Cliff Albright, second from left, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, are arrested during a protest to support voting rights outside the Hart Building on Thursday.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Hank Johnson, center, and Cliff Albright, second from left, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, are arrested during a protest to support voting rights outside the Hart Building on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted July 22, 2021 at 4:06pm

Capitol Police arrested Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson and nine others Thursday as they protested restrictive state election bills being enacted across the country and demanded an end to the legislative filibuster in front of the Hart Senate Office Building.

The protest was organized by groups that included Black Voters Matter and Our Black Party, said Our Black Party national co-chair Wes Bellamy.

“Black women, and a few Black men, demonstrated last week at the Capitol,” Bellamy said. “This week, it was time for Black men to stand up, which is what we did.”  

The event, dubbed the “Brothers Day of Action on Capitol Hill,” included a speech by Johnson to a small crowd in front of the Supreme Court, where he called on Congress to pass laws that would overhaul voting and ethics rules. 

One of those bills, ​​dubbed HR 1, would make sweeping changes to political money, elections, influence and ethics and was passed by the House in March. The Senate version got a floor vote in June, but no Republicans supported it, causing it to fall well short of the 60-vote filibuster threshold.  

On Thursday, protesters chanted, “Black voters, they matter here” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the filibuster has got to go” as police closed in. They ordered the crowd blocking the entrance to Hart to disperse and moved supporters and media away from the group.

Then, when the 10 remaining by the entrance did not move and continued to chant, they were cuffed and led into police vans to be taken away. 

Bellamy, who is also the interim department chair of Virginia State University’s political science department, said the event was held in response to last week’s protest. At that protest, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, was arrested with Bellamy and seven others as they participated in a voting rights demonstration inside Hart. 

“I was the only Black man to get arrested with the sisters,” he said. “It was important to again show solidarity and support, and that’s really the key thing.”

The 10 people who were warned to disperse outside of Hart were arrested for “D.C. Code §22-1307 - Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding,” said Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki.

Johnson, whose office released a statement after he was arrested, said he was causing some “Good Trouble,” channeling former Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis’ favorite phrase for civil disobedience and fighting systems of injustice.