Arizona students on hunger strike at the White House for passing a bill
A group of Arizona students have gone on a 10-day hunger strike in an attempt to pressure federal lawmakers to pass legislation that would create national standards for voting and elections this year.
Students primarily from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona began their protest at the Arizona Capitol on December 6 before heading outside the White House, where they have since been joined. by students from other states.
The group of about 20 young people urge President Joe Biden and the Senate to prioritize passage of the Freedom to Vote Act, which aims to expand voter registration and access and address the integrity of elections and campaign finance, before the end of the year.
The participants did not eat anything to show their commitment to the passage of the legislation.
“The freedom to vote law is really the first step towards a functioning democracy,” said Brandon Ortega, an ASU student who has not eaten for 10 days.
“We’re all pretty tired, people are hungry, but we’re still holding on, and we’re on an indefinite hunger strike until we meet with the Biden administration” or the legislation is passed, said Ortega by phone Wednesday from outside the White House.
Organized studentsthe effort through Un-PAC, a political organization of non-partisan youth working to repair democracy, according to the group.
The group of students and young voters in Arizona went on “an indefinite hunger strike” in the Phoenix Legislature last week to pressure Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, to supports the freedom to vote law.
The hunger strikers had a virtual meeting with Sinema on the fourth day of their strike. Sinema told the students she supported the free vote law, but there had been no action on it because it had not been considered in the Senate since her last vote, according to the students.
Students are now looking to Biden to change that. Since arriving in Washington, the Arizona group has grown to include young people from Texas, Florida, Utah and Virginia, the organization said.
Joseline Garcia, the organization’s national director and co-founder of Un-PAC and one of the strikers, said the group is negotiating with the Biden administration over a meeting with the president or other “decision-maker. “and tried to express the urgency. Garcia said officials in the Biden administration knew they were there.
“Putting our bodies into play”
AU student Georgia Linden began her hunger strike on the evening of December 5 and continued until the morning of December 14, before returning to Arizona on the advice of doctors.
“It’s almost indescribable,” she said of the experience. “It was telling not to eat for so long. Even though it didn’t seem that long, eight days was the length of my participation, it was like a lifetime. Putting our bodies in danger was a gesture. drastic, but we are in dire straits right now. ”
Linden said the strike was a “last ditch effort” to help push through the legislation before the end of the year.
“We absolutely implore the Biden administration to get this passed before the end of the year.”
A-PAC Twitter The page shows videos of students on strike, saying they are exhausted, sleepy and weak but determined to keep going.
Linden and a few other hunger strikers had to give up on the advice of doctors, who check their vital signs twice a day, in the morning and before bed, to make sure they are not clearly in danger. she declared. The strikers don’t eat food but drink water and electrolytes, she said.
Beyond the hardships of the strike, making it to the college finals was an added challenge, she said.
“It has certainly been a logistical nightmare, but it’s absolutely the most important thing that exists right now, period. It’s a huge problem. “
Most of the students who started 10 days ago are still on strike, Linden said, adding that she was medically concerned for them.
Escalation to a hunger strike
Ortega said he started working with Un-PAC in March, doing everything from calls and emails to canvassing across the state, before “escalating” until the week’s hunger strike. last and “implore federal intervention”.
The organization met with Senate staff and knocked on thousands of doors during the year, but had to raise the stakes given the urgency to pass the legislation, said Garcia, the organizer.
“The reason we have gone on the hunger strike is that it is very urgent to get this bill passed this year and we do not see anything concrete from the Senate or Joe Biden to see this urgency. “she said.
“Our future is at stake,” Garcia said, adding that these young people would rather starve than inherit a democracy that does not work. Everything from health care to education and student debt to taxes is affected by how democracy works in the United States, she said.
Ortego said that as a first-generation Latin American student, he and his generation care about challenges such as climate change, immigration, poverty and gun violence, and need electoral legislation national to resolve these issues.
The Freedom to Vote Act would expand early voting, voter identification requirements, postal ballots, and automatic and same-day registration. It would also limit partisan gerrymandering and the impact of election money. Election day would also be a public holiday.
Republicans opposed the bill in the Senate, but if Democrats got rid of the filibuster, they could pass the bill by a simple majority. Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin, DW. Va., Have continued to broadly support the filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to advance legislation.
Biden told reporters during a visit to Kentucky on Wednesday that voting rights legislation was a priority.
“If we can get the voting rights in Congress, we should do it,” he said. “There is nothing more important at the national level than the right to vote. This is the biggest problem.
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