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Kamala Harris meets with Black women activists and voting rights advocates


(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Kamala Harris met with Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, and other Black female activists in the Roosevelt Room on Friday to discuss voting rights.

Many of the women who were invited to the meeting participated in a demonstration of civil disobedience at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus was among nine protesters who were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police after leading a peaceful demonstration to advocate for voting rights inside the Hart Senate Office Building.

At least 20 Black female activists rallied against legislation across the country that Democrats argue is restricting Americans’ right to vote. They called for federal intervention and specifically the end to the filibuster rule, so the U.S. Senate can pass the For The People Act.

Protesters walked hand in hand into the Senate office building Thursday, singing and chanting, “Let the people vote!”

“This afternoon, nine people were arrested for demonstrating in a prohibited area on Capitol Grounds. At approximately 3:30pm, the United States Capitol Police responded to the Atrium in the Hart Senate Office Building for reports of illegal demonstration activity,” a U.S. Capitol Police statement said.

“After officers arrived on the scene, they warned the demonstrators three times to stop. Those who refused were arrested for D.C. Code §22-1307. Two males and seven females were transported to USCP Headquarters for processing,” the statement continued.

Leading the demonstration alongside Campbell was LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund; Tamika Mallory, founder of Unit Freedom; Dr. Johnnetta Cole, national chair and president of the National Council of Negro Women; Cora Masters Barry, CEO of the Recreation Wishlist Committee; and Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, CEO and co-founder of the Skinner Institute.

Harris praised the activists during their meeting for their efforts to pressure Congress to pass voting rights legislation and compared them to Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells and other Black female civil rights pioneers.

“I look at the leaders that are at this table, who are also women, and also Black women, and I see Sojourner Truth. When I look at the women at this table I see Ida B. Wells, Amelia Boynton. I see Fannie Lou Hamer; I see Constance Baker Motley. And these are the modern versions of those great women who all Americans, all Americans have the blessing and the benefit of standing on [their] shoulders. So this meeting has been a meeting and a discussion among leaders, who are national leaders, who are American leaders, about what we must collectively as a nation do to stand up for our democracy,” Harris told reporters.

The vice president also said she spoke Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about voting rights, telling reporters that “this is an issue about America’s standing in the world”

“Yesterday, I hosted the Chancellor of Germany in my home at the official residence of the vice president of the United States and we discussed our collective responsibility to fight for democracies around the world. And in the context of that conversation of voting rights in America came up because this is not only an issue for us as Americans in terms of the ability to exercise our voice, our rightful voice in our democracy, this is also an issue that is about America standing in the world. And whether we can continue to hold ourselves out as a democracy and therefore a leader on the globe,” Harris said.

Sixteen states have enacted 28 laws that would restrict voting access, out of hundreds that have been introduced throughout the country, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

In March, House Democrats advanced the For the People Act, an expansive package that would transform federal elections, voting and congressional redistricting — but it has stalled in the Senate after failing to advance in a procedural vote late last month, over opposition from all Republicans. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said he won’t end the filibuster to make way for the bill.

The demonstration comes just two days before the one-year anniversary of the death of the late Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, on “Bloody Sunday” in the Civil Rights movement.

Following her arrest, Beatty tweeted in Lewis’ honor with the caption, “#goodtrouble.”

ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel and Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

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