Normally August in D.C. is a month of heat, laziness, and vacations. But in this pandemic year, the first week of August has been full of social and political activism.
The Eviction Moratorium
In March 2020, Congress enacted an eviction moratorium to protect families from being thrown out of their homes during the pandemic. The moratorium, later extended by the Centers for Disease Control, was set to expire at the end of July. As the deadline approached, activists led by Rep. Cori Bush held a days-long vigil on the steps of the Capitol to fight for an extension.
The cause was personal for Bush who, two decades ago, was homeless, living out of her car with her two young children. She told her story in a recent issue of Time magazine:
“I had never realized St. Louis could get this cold in September. I reached into the back seat to take my 6-month-old daughter and 1-year-old son out of the playpen that was perched in front of trash bags filled with our clothes, and into my arms. The hot, late-summer sun had set, and the temperature plummeted with it. I fought sleep, my eyes watering from exhaustion. What if my babies got too cold and I didn’t wake up? I looked down at my watch. It was 3 AM ─ 4 hours until I had to be up for my shift.”
Other members of Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Joyce Beatty, joined Bush and the activists to press the case for an extension of the moratorium.
Celebrating the temporary victory
After the attention that Bush and the activists brought to the issue, the Biden administration announced a new, more limited moratorium that will last through October 3rd. That evening, Bush and Ocasio-Cortez took a moment to celebrate, while encouraging supporters to push for longer-term solutions.
The Poor People’s Campaign
The Poor People’s Campaign was a 1968 movement for economic justice. The movement was revived in 2018 as a moral call to action. On Monday, co-leader Reverend William Barber II led a National Day of Action with a march from Union Station to the Capitol, with pre-planned arrests of 200 for civil disobedience.
Today is the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and there have been several events this week both recognizing that historic achievement and pushing for the For the People Act, a voting rights bill currently stalled in the Senate.
Voting Rights Act
Reverend Jesse Jackson and Luci Baines Johnson spoke in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday about the Voting Rights Act signed in 1965 by President Johnson, and the need to pass the new For the People Act. Jackson was an emerging civil rights leader in 1965, and Johnson was a teenager who remembered how much her father cared about passing the signature legislation of his presidency.
For the People Act
Representative John Sarbanes, who introduced the For the People Act in 2019, spoke on Tuesday by the Capitol to a group of state legislators who had come to D.C. to lobby for the bill.
Voting Rights march
On Wednesday, there was a rally and march from the National Museum of African American History and Culture to the White House in support of voting rights, led by Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Yesterday, families of 9/11 victims came to the Capitol holding photos of their lost relatives, at a press conference about the just-introduced bill, the September 11th Transparency Act of 2021. This bill seeks to declassify information about the possible role of Saudi Arabia and other countries in financing or supporting the attack. Senators Bob Menendez and Richard Blumenthal, co-sponsors of the bill, spoke along with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The bill has bi-partisan support, including from Republican Senators Cornyn and Grassley, and the hope is that it will be passed before the 20th anniversary of the attack in September.