Voting rights activists honor memory of John Lewis with ‘votercades’ across Coastal Georgia

Updated: May. 8, 2021 at 11:15 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Saturday was National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day, and organizers spent the day pushing for the passage of laws to stop legislation some say will restrict access to the polls. From Statesboro to Savannah, people across the Coastal Empire turned out for these so-called “votercades.”

Community leaders joined the Georgia Coalition of the People’s Agenda in Hinesville, Statesboro and Savannah in recognition of the day. More than 150 John Lewis ‘Good Trouble’ Awareness votercades took to the streets on Saturday across the country.

“We want to instill on the public today, as we make our stops, that these obstacles may come, but the importance of the vote no matter what,” said Willie Johnson, a retired professor of political science and Grand Marshal of the votercade.

Organizers say this national effort is to encourage the community to take action like making calls to lawmakers and encouraging them to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“Think about the barriers that will be created from SB 202 and why HR1 and HR4 is so important for us to focus on.” said Carry Smith, the Coastal Georgia Coordinator for the Georgia Coalition of People’s Agenda.

SB 202 is a bill that was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in March. That’s the bill that gained national attention with Democrats called it Republicans’ voter suppression legislation.

In order to honor the life of the late civil rights activist, groups like this say they’re calling for the bill to be repealed.

“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go especially since we’re seeing the minorities grow more in this state. The diversity of Georgia is changing,” said Johnson.

Smith says the votercade series was successful across Georgia during the 2020 general election in increasing the turnout of minority voters.

“We’re not going to be silent and we’re not going to be quiet and we’re not going to back off,” said Smith.

The votercade in Savannah made eight stops at various historic sites including Mother Matilda Beasley Cottage and ended at the location of The Weeping Time Auction.

“It’s our collective American history that we need to understand. It affects all of us and tells our story about our evolution and where we need to go. We don’t need to go backwards.” said Smith.

In the case of Georgia’s law, many of those in favor have said the changes are aimed at making the elections process more secure. The changes come after claims of wide-spread fraud have been repeatedly debunked.

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