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Protesters Call On Manchin To End Filibuster

Protestors on Virginia Street in Charleston.
Eric Douglas
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
A group of protestors blocked Virginia Street in Charleston to encourage Sen. Joe Manchin to end the filibuster.

A group of protesters was arrested after blocking traffic on Virginia Street in downtown Charleston Monday. They called on Sen. Joe Manchin to end the filibuster and pass key legislation on everything from voting rights to abortion access.

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Eric Douglas
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Protestors gathered in a light rain for speeches exhorting Sen. Joe Manchin to end the filibuster.

A group of about 30 marchers met at Slack Plaza for speeches before heading up Capitol Street and back down Virginia Street where they took up positions in front of the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse.

One of the speakers was 23-year-old Rylee Haught, a recent West Virginia University graduate from Parkersburg. She noted this was the third time giving her speech.

I gave this speech outside the (U.S.) Capitol,” she said. “I then gave my speech again when I blockaded the coal plant where Manchin profits over $500,000 a year. I'd like to share it with y'all because for a third time, apparently Manchin hasn't heard me yet.”

Haught said she has staged two hunger strikes attempting to get the senator’s attention as well.

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Eric Douglas
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Rylee Haught, a 23-year-old recent West Virginia University graduate from Parkersburg spoke to the group of protestors.

“I have knocked on thousands of doors and gotten hundreds of calls to your office. I went without food for a cumulative 23 days in a hunger strike for democracy,” Haught said. “I encouraged WVU SGA to pass their letter of support for the Freedom to Vote Act, and I have been arrested twice, and I even ran for office just to show you how deeply urgent the Freedom to Vote John R. Lewis Act is to upholding our American values of freedom and equality.

“Today, I risk arrest again, because, just as you've let voting rights and John Lewis's legacy and last piece of legislation die, you've let West Virginians die from overdoses, from black lung disease, from a lack of mine safety, from inaccessible and expensive health care, and the list goes on.”

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Eric Douglas
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Charleston Police Officers approached a group of protestors blocking Virginia Street.

After the group arrived at the federal courthouse and moved into position on the street, Charleston City Police arrived in force. They allowed anyone who didn’t want to be arrested to move to the sidewalk. About eight of the protesters chose to be arrested. They were handcuffed and taken away in police cars.

In response to the protest, a Manchin spokesperson said, “Senator Manchin has always supported the right of every West Virginian to peacefully protest as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

The protest organizers organized a simultaneous march in Tucson, Arizona, home of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema is another Democrat who’s indicated she wouldn’t vote to remove the filibuster either.

So far, repeated protests have not changed Manchin’s or Sinema’s mind.

The U.S. Senate requires two votes to pass any piece of legislation. The first vote ends debate. The second passes the legislation. The second vote only requires a simple majority of senators to vote yes. The first vote, called the cloture rule, requires 60 votes.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “in 2013, Democrats changed the Senate rules to enable the confirmation of executive branch positions — including the cabinet — and of non–Supreme Court judicial nominees with a simple majority. Four years later, Senate Republicans expanded the change to include Supreme Court appointments. Both changes invoked what is known as the nuclear option, or an override of a rule to over­come obstruc­tion by the minority.”

Manchin and Sinema have both refused to reduce the filibuster for proposed laws like the Freedom To Vote act.

News Director, edouglas@wvpublic.org, 304-556-4946, @AppalachiaEric

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