Voting rights supporters cheer Cuomo’s resignation, then call for Congress to protect democracy across America

Dozens of protesters gathered at Battery Park on Tuesday for a rally to support Congressional legislation protecting voting rights let out thunderous cheers after news broke that Governor Andrew Cuomo had resigned following closing walls of investigations, sexual assault claims, and talks of impeachment.

“For those of you who don’t know, Andrew Cuomo has just resigned,” one speaker said as his voice was drowned out by applause and euphoric cries.

However, demonstrators swiftly composed themselves and moved on to the task at hand.

Standing at the foot of the East Coast Memorial in Battery Park, advocates came decked out in medical gear and set up a mock patient in the form of a dummy with the words “democracy” scrawled across its bed sheet attached to an IV marked S1. This was intended to represent what civil rights activists feel to be the dire state of American democracy after numerous states have instituted restrictive legislation limiting people of color from voting.

The afternoon demonstration was a part of a national day of action appealing to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass the For The People Act (S.1), a bill to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws and reduce the influence of money and party influence in politics.

Civil rights activists demand the passage of the For the People Act at a rally in Battery Park on Aug. 10. Photo by Dean Moses
“Democracy is not dead, it’s on life support,” protesters said. Photo by Dean Moses

“We are here today because democracy as we understand it is in peril. We are here today to advocate for the For the People Act, which is our best defense against over 300 absolutely racist, classist, voter suppression legislation that has been introduced across our country. There has been a wave of white supremacist violence happening. Jan. 6 was a sign of what is possible. The white supremacist insurrection was led to thwart a democratic election with the sign of what is to come. So, what we are here today to point out is that democracy is not dead, but it is on life support,” said Jawanza Williams, Director of Organizing for advocacy group Vocal-NY.

Advocates demand that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer push for the passage of the For the People Act. Photo by Dean Moses

Williams explains that S1 is not just another voter bill, but a comprehensive package that directly responds to the realities of current day voter suppression and gerrymandering.  

Advocates at the rally are putting pressure on Schumer to pass the bill before the August recess and to not allow filibusters to block it.

“It’s going to take government action, but that action has not happened because the people that are in power have been put in power and maintain their power through the influence of problematic donations from billionaires,” Williams added. 

But not all went according to plan. The rally proceeded despite at the start of a heat wave, and the sweltering temperatures led one attendee to faint. An arriving ambulance halted but did not cancel proceedings.

As the man was attended to by EMS, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams lent his support to the bill’s passage.

The immense heat was too much for one man who fainted. Photo by Dean Moses

“I probably wouldn’t be here without public financing from when I beat an incumbent in the City Council—everybody told me I was crazy—to when I ran for lieutenant governor almost got it, and shook them up. Now I’m a Public Advocate, but that is what they are afraid of. The reason they don’t want public financing is people like me, and people like the folks behind me have access to power to dismantle a system that needs dismantling,” Williams said. 

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams Photo by Dean Moses

“What we hear now is that people want to return to normal during this pandemic. What we know is, normal doesn’t work. Normal didn’t work for the vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans, so we don’t want to return to normal. We have to become better than normal. We have to put the systems in place that weren’t there that caused so many people to die in the first place,” he addded.