Politicians, activists rally to pass the For the People Act

A rally attendee holds up a homemade sign.

Arlie Sarnicola, Staff Photographer

OAKLAND, Calif. – Citizens and politicians alike gathered in the Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza downtown on Friday, July 9 to energize voters and create an action plan to get bill S.1 passed.

The bill, which must be passed this summer in order to allow enough time for states to implement it by the 2022 primaries, addresses “Voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics for the three branches of government” according to the Congressional Research Service. It aims to expand voting rights and voting access, as well as implementing nonpartisan redistricting commissions to limit party-based gerrymandering.
In addition, S.1 would work to restrict foreign campaign spending and introduce bills to secure future elections. It would also mandate that the President and Vice President, and future presidential candidates, would release their tax information to the public. S.1 largely addresses redistricting, voting rights, financial transparency among politicians, and election security.
A number of local organizations worked together to put the rally on, including but not limited to East Bay Activist Alliance, Bay Rising, Equal Justice Society, Indivisible SF, and many more.
A sizable crowd gathered in the downtown plaza, and many attendees held homemade signs and purchased buttons and shirts from S Goody. Goody was manning a table with social justice-related merchandise.
The rally began with a speech from Elisha Crader, a northern California organizer representing the Working Families Party. She was followed by Bruce Hartford (a field organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), Queen Jackson (a grassroots leader with Community Change Action and MoveOn.org), Rebecca Kaplan (Oakland City Council Member-at-Large, Vice Mayor), Janani Ramachandran (lawyer, artist/activist, candidate for California State Assembly in District 18), and Aisha Wahab (Mayor Pro Tempore and City Council Member of Hayward).
It was an impressive lineup of speakers, all of whom energized the crowd with their passion for progressive reform and support for bill S.1. Ramachandran in particular was a standout, riling the crowd up with a fiery speech touching on taxing the wealthy, the need for national healthcare, and the Green New Deal.
In-between speakers, organizers walked through the crowd to distribute “action plans;” packets containing instructions on how to take concrete steps to support bill S.1. It came with a postcard that had several actions attendees could commit to.
First, calling Senators Feinstein and Padilla as well as the President as often as possible, urging them to support the bill. Second, asking one’s own network to call their senators, followed by joining Common Cause phone banks to contact voters in important states encouraging them to call their representatives to amend the filibuster.
Lastly, the action plan recommended writing a letter to the editor about the For the People Act and filibuster.
“I am more and more convinced that we live in a pseudo-oligarchy because of the Republicans Party. I understand why Joe Biden wants to work with Republicans, he wants to create an image of a united America, but that’s not the reality right now,” Peninsula Democratic Socialists of America Evan Sutton said Like many Progressives, he does not see a path to progressive reform through Republican collaboration.
The speakers at the event echoed Sutton’s sentiments as they decried the use of the filibuster by Republicans to block the Democratic Party’s bills, including recent use of the filibuster to prevent a vote on a proposal to establish a committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the nation’s capital.
The Deadline for Democracy rallies aim at the use of the filibuster to stymie any left-wing political progress during the Biden administration and future administrations. The rallies and related events are planned throughout the rest of the month.