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NAACP Protesters Fined For Voting Rights Sit-In

Posted by Admin On September - 9 - 2016

ROANOKE, VA – NAACP National President and CEO Cornell William Brooks and NAACP Youth & College Division Director Stephen Green were ordered today to pay fines and court costs for their refusal to leave a local Congressman’s office during a Voting Rights protest last month.

Green and Brooks appeared in a Roanoke Courtroom Thursday to answer charges stemming from a six-hour sit-in protest held Aug. 8 at the district office of Congressman Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Brooks pled guilty to the charge of trespassing.

“The right to vote in our country has been hobbled by state interference in the form of rank political maneuvering, and the failure of Congress to protect this civic sacrament is appalling,” Brooks said. “In the courts, in the streets and at the polls this November, this nation demands action to protect our vote – the wellspring of all other civil rights.”

Through marches, protests and mass arrests for civil disobedience, the NAACP has repeatedly called on Goodlatte and congressional leaders to hold a hearing on legislation restoring protections from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were eliminated under the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby v. Holder ruling.

Though legislation to amend the landmark civil rights law has been pending in congress since January 2014, no action has been taken by the judiciary committee, effectively leaving the Voting Rights Amendment Act in limbo.

“After the Shelby decision three years ago, Chairman Goodlatte has still refused to even hold a hearing on this issue,” Brooks told NAACP supporters, reporters and spectators outside the courthouse. “We are fighting. And we cannot promise we won’t be back to fight against voter suppression.”

Prosecutors acknowledged that both Brooks and Green were exercising their right to engage in an act of civil disobedience, but asked the court to levy the fine as a direct consequence of their action.

While Congress failed to act for three years, more than 17 states have passed restrictive and discriminatory laws to make it more difficult for African-American, young, old and poor voters to cast ballots by requiring IDs and cutting back programs that led to record African-American turnout in recent elections. The NAACP and allies have challenged individual state laws in federal court while calling for congressional action to prevent future attempts to restrict the voting process from candidates seeking office Nov. 8.

Last week, the Supreme Court denied a request by North Carolina state attorneys to revive the state’s election changes, including photo ID requirements and curtailed early voting hours. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that state changes to election law were “motivated by invidious racial discrimination.”

At colleges and communities, and through volunteer-driven events across the nation, NAACP members are aggressively working this fall to help register voters and stand against intimidation and discrimination in the Nov. 8 election.

“With recent NAACP-driven voting rights court victories at our back, today we stood in court –within the American tradition of civil disobedience–to plead guilty to trespassing for our sit-in to combat voter suppression,” Brooks said after the hearing. “Following our arrest last month for the voter suppression sit-in at the office of Congressman Bob Goodlatte, we appeared in municipal court. With the support of Roanoke President Brenda Hale and the local branch of the NAACP, we paid a modest fine.

“The small size of the fine is inversely related to the still massive amount of voter suppression. Accordingly, we must continue our campaign of civil disobedience to protect our right to vote even as we organize to get out the vote. We continue to press Congressman Goodlatte to hold a hearing to secure the Restore the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and his own constituents make the case for him to do so.”

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