200 Attend Vigil for Democracy

To commemorate the assault on the US capitol of January 6, 2021, First Parish and other organizations sponsored a Vigil for Democracy Thursday night.  One of over 200 such vigils around the country, the event gave people a place to express their grief at what happened a year ago. Eric Segal opened the event with these words: “Good evening and thanks so much for coming out.  You know, 241 years ago, Paul Revere rode right by here. Up Mystic Ave and right on Mass Ave, right next to where we are standing. And if he were here today, looking at us, I think he would say “What the…You’re having to fight for democracy –again?” And we would have to say yes. And you know who else came right by here? A man named Prince Hall, who also around the time of the revolution fought like heck to get the Masons to allow African Americans in their organization. If he walked by today, he would say “You’re still having to fight so that people with dark skin get treated equally?” And we would have to say yes. And one other person who came by here was Margaret Fuller, known as “the precursor of the Women’s Rights agitation.” If she came by today she would say you are still having to fight about treating all people equally under the Constitution? And we would have to say yes. Because due to a Supreme Court, confirmed by Senators representing just a minority of Americans, we no longer have any limits on Campaign Finance.  And due to that same Supreme Court, the Voting Rights act, which the Senate had passed 77 to 19, was also completely gutted by 5 justices, elected by no one.  And because of extreme gerrymandering, states like North Carolina, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, send 13 Republicans to Congress and only 5 Democrats. And because of abuse of the filibuster, all it takes is 41 Senators, representing less than 20% of Americans, to block any legislation that would fix these problems. We all know what happened last January 6, but that was not the beginning or the end of attacks on democracy. Today, legislators in 30 states are passing laws that make it harder for certain groups of people –mostly Democrats – to vote; make it easier for thugs to intimidate impartial vote counters and make it easier for government officials to completely ignore the results of elections and declare anyone they want to be the winner. What this all means – and if you remember just one thing we say today, this should be it – is that we are rapidly moving toward being a country like Russia, Hungary or Turkey – where there are nominations, elections, and all the trappings of a democracy, but no democracy. In the words of a recent book on how democracies die – “by capturing the referees, intimidating opponents and re-writing rules, autocrats can create near permanent rule supposedly within the bounds of democracy. We may not have a horse, but we’re here today because like Paul Revere, we believe in democracy and know it is worth fighting for. So thanks for coming today. We’re going to have some quick speeches, a little music, and then a recitation of the awful things happening, state by state. Then we will go out to the sidewalks and hold our signs until 7pm.” The Vigil also included a speech by local representatives Sean Garbally and Senator Cindy Friedman.  Mary Cummings and Rep Dave Rogers read the following to summarize the voter suppression laws that have been passed: There is not enough time in this vigil to list all the ways that democracy is under assault in the US. On the federal level, it includes the gutting of campaign finance laws, throwing out longstanding voting rights legislation, abuse of the filibuster and much more. But the assault is not just on the federal level. Dozens of states are actively gutting the democratic principles this country has strived for, over the last 2 centuries. Following are just a few of these efforts – and what they are planning for the coming year is much worse. Alabama – New and restrictive voting laws Arkansas – Politicizing the state courts Arizona – Republican legislators have passed a law taking away authority over election lawsuits from the secretary of state, who’s now a Democrat, and giving it to the attorney general, a Republican. Florida – Extreme gerrymandering to dilute Democratic votes Georgia – Republicans have passed a law to remove local election officials in the mostly Democratic counties around Atlanta, setting up the districts so they are more likely controlled by white Republicans who will be allowed to challenge election results. Also in those counties, drop boxes will be limited, absentee voting will be shortened and voter ID requirements will be instated. One county will have one polling place for the entire county. Idaho – New and restrictive voting laws – enacted supposedly to fight voter fraud, but all parties agree that there is virtually no voting fraud. Illinois – Extreme gerrymandering to dilute Republican votes Iowa – New and restrictive voting laws Kansas – State courts taken over by Republican functionaries Kentucky – The impartiality of state courts undermined by state legislatures. Michigan – State officials are nominating election boards by appointing members who are sympathetic with the lie that the 2020 election was rigged. Anti-voting activists are currently organizing a restrictive ballot initiative that would, among other things, eliminate the ability for voters who lack a voter identification to cast a regular ballot; require voters to put the last four digits of their Social Security number on their voter registration. Missouri – New legislation would empower partisan officials to overturn election results. Montana – State courts politicized and/or undermined North Carolina – Extreme gerrymandering to dilute Democratic votes North Dakota – The impartiality of state courts undermined by state legislatures. Oklahoma  – State courts politicized and/or undermined Oregon  – Extreme gerrymandering Pennsylvania – In two Pennsylvania counties earlier this month — Lancaster and York — a handful of candidates who have supported Trump’s false 2020 claims won elections to serve as local election judges and election inspectors South Carolina – State officials embracing Trump’s lies of a stolen election Tennessee – State courts politicized and/or undermined Texas  – Extreme gerrymandering, described by the Brennan Center for Justice as “one of the most politically and racially skewed maps”, and passing one of the harshest restrictive voting bills in the country. The law makes it harder for voters with disabilities and language access barriers to obtain assistance, constrains election workers’ ability to stop harassment by poll watchers, and bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting. Utah – New and restrictive voting laws Wisconsin – Senator Ron Johnson is urging the Republican-controlled Legislature to take full control of federal elections. Wyoming – New and restrictive voting laws.” The vigil also included pro-democracy songs led by Anne Goodwin, after which people assembled with their signs at the corner of Mass Ave and Pleasant Street to the sounds of beeping horns as cars went by.  The event was sponsored by the Social Justice Committee.


-By Alan Linov

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