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Activists Rally At Texas Capitol, Demand Federal Protection For Voting Rights

 The final day of marching at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, outside of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
The final day of marching at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, outside of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

Activists marched from Georgetown to Austin to denounce proposed changes to the state's voting laws. Many say the changes would make it harder for people to vote.

More than a thousand people marched to the south steps of the Texas Capitol Saturday to denounce the state’s proposed election law changes, calling on the federal government to pass legislation that would make those changes illegal.

The rally began four days ago in Georgetown, when organizers from The Poor People's Campaign and Beto O’Rourke’s voter mobilization group began a 27-mile march that culminated in Austin on Saturday. Willie Nelson performed at the rally.

Inspired by the iconic marches of the civil rights movement, performers sang a rendition of the popular protest song called “We Shall Not Be Moved,” changing the words to, “We’re marching for our voting rights, we shall not be moved.”

Rev. William J Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, addressed the crowd flanked by a bright purple casket, which he said represented the way statehouses across the country are trying to bury their attempts to fight for voting rights.

“It will not happen on our watch,” he said.

Barber also called on President Joe Biden to “come talk to the people in Texas,” and urged him to push through the passages of the For the People and John Lewis Voting Rights acts.

During his remarks, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke thanked the state legislators who fled to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to block the passage of the bills that would restrict drive-through voting and 24-hour polling locations, among other provisions. Democrats from the Texas House of Representatives left the state on July 12 to block these efforts, which they consider restrictive and unnecessary.

Adrianne Coward, a veteran from San Marcos, attended the rally with her daughter Tiffany Williams, who is also a veteran. Coward said she was inspired to attend after her daughter participated in two legs of the march from Georgetown.

Despite the heat, they both felt it was important for them to be there.

“It’s kind of crazy after all these years we’re still doing the same thing, still having to march for the same exact rights and reasons,” Williams said. “We can out-power the ones in charge. We have the right to vote them in and out and so if we don’t like what they’re doing, we can all come together and change it.”

Many Republican-led legislatures across the country have passed similar voting changes in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, largely in response to unfounded claims by former president Donald Trump that widespread voter fraud led to his loss.

The current Texas Legislative special session ends August 6. Governor Greg Abbott has said he will call additional special sessions in order to get the voting bill passed.

Copyright 2021 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

 Crowds at the Rally at the Texas State Capitol at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
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Crowds at the Rally at the Texas State Capitol at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
 Counter protesters meet the final day of marching at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, outside of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
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Counter protesters meet the final day of marching at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, outside of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
 Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II speaks at Rally at the Texas State Capitol at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
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Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II speaks at Rally at the Texas State Capitol at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
 Beto O'Rourke speaks at Rally at the Texas State Capitol at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
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Beto O'Rourke speaks at Rally at the Texas State Capitol at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
 Willie Nelson performs at Rally at the Texas State Capitol at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
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Willie Nelson performs at Rally at the Texas State Capitol at the conclusion of the Georgetown-to-Austin March for Democracy on July 31, 2021, at the south steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT