President Joe Biden

A coalition of two dozen faith leaders has begun a hunger strike with the intent of pressuring Democrats in the Senate and President Joe Biden to pass voting rights legislation this month, as pressure grows on Mr Biden to protect the 2020 midterms and the next presidential election.

The group, which includes prominent pastors of historically African-American congregations such as Rev Stephen A Green and Rev Eugene Minson III of the St Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem, New York, began their strike on 6 January in step with efforts to memorialise the one-year anniversary of the Capitol riot.

In an interview with The Independent, Rev Green confirmed that their team was in contact with the White House as well as some in the Senate including Sen Raphael Warnock, who himself is a reverend.

Rev Stephen A Green

(Rev Stephen A Green/Facebook)

They plan to escalate their tactics with more “direct action” in the coming weeks if progress on passing voting rights legislation, which has been stuck in the Senate for months, is not made. That action could include further protests such as sit-ins, Rev Green explained.

“We have an array of options we are prepared to move forward to,” Rev Green said. The purpose of the strike, he added, was to bring “moral attention to the nation around the plight of our democracy”.–180303445/–180303507/–180304160/–180303445/–180303507/–180304160/–180303445/–180303507/–180304160/–180303445/–180303507/–180304160/–180303445/–180303507/–180304160/–180303445/–180303507/–180304160/–180303445/–180303507/–180304160/

Experts have pointed to the next few weeks as a crucial time for such legislation to be passed. A wave of redrawn districts around the country, gerrymandered in many cases to protect incumbents and weaken Democratic candidates, is cited by many as a key obstacle to the party retaining control over the House in the fall.

A group of Arizona-based activists who launched their own hunger strike over the issue last year announced a temporary end to their strike after meeting in recent days with the White House and Sen Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat opposed to changes to the legislative filibuster needed to pass the legislation in spite of unified GOP oppositions.

That group has told The Independent that they plan to resume their strike if a deal is not struck between Ms Sinema, her caucus, and Sen Joe Manchin, another Democratic opponent of filibuster changes, within the coming weeks.

Rev Green offered some pointed criticism for the two holdouts in his interview, noting that their opposition did not appear to stem from their statuses as Democrats from traditionally-red states given that Sen Warnock was supportive of the issue.

“It just shows the corporate buyout of the two senators, Sens Manchin and Sinema,” he told The Independent.

Were legislation battling gerrymandering and protecting access to the ballot box for minority voters to pass, Rev Green added, “[w]e would truly move closer to a multi-racial, multi ethnic-democracy. And they are threatened.”

The issue of voting rights is particularly important for many Black voters, who make up a significant portion of the Democratic Party’s voting blocs particularly in the South, where districts are often drawn by GOP legislatures to minimise representation for Democrats.

Joe Madison, an African-American human rights activists, former NAACP worker and current SiriusXM radio host, laid out the importance of the issue in an address to fellow hunger strikers in front of the White House last month.

“If Joe Biden can show up when we were registering people to vote, he can damn well show up to protect that vote,” Mr Madison told the assembled activists in December.

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