From Georgetown to Austin, a March to Defend Democracy

Beto O’Rourke speaks at his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign rally at Scholz Garten in 2019; O’Rourke is among several political and civil rights leaders marching from Georgetown to Austin this week (Photo by John Anderson)

From Georgetown to Austin – 27 miles as the crow flies – is only half the distance between Selma and Montgomery, but it’s long enough to focus attention and activism on Texas’ proposed “election integrity” laws and the GOP’s attempts across the country to turn the voting-rights clock at least halfway back to the dark days of March 1965.

That’s the premise of the four-day Moral March for Democracy, departing Georgetown bright and early Wednesday morning and culminating in a rally at the Texas State Capitol on Saturday morning.

Dozens of political figures, religious leaders, and civil rights activists are leading their flocks and movements into the hot summer streets this week, most prominently the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and his Poor People’s Campaign (leading a “season of nonviolent moral direct action” across the country this summer) and the indefatigable Beto O’Rourke and his Powered by People grassroots political team. Beto, Barber, and Barber’s PPC co-chair, the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, prominent pastors including Dallas’ Frederick Haynes and Houston’s James Dixon, and partner groups such as Workers Defense Action, ADAPT, and Texas Right to Vote will gather tonight (Tuesday, July 27) for a worship service and news conference at Christ Lutheran Church in Georgetown. The marchers will break their journey at Good Hope Baptist in Round Rock, the North Austin Muslim Community Center, and University Baptist Church over the next three nights, with prayer services and other events planned at each (see below for more details).

Why are they doing this? Like the Texas House Democrats currently breaking quorum in Washington D.C., the marchers are less concerned about changing Texas GOP leaders’ plans than with forcing Congress to act on federal legislation to restore the power of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, passed in the wake of the dramatic and bloody Selma-to-Montgomery marches. “We need to bring greater attention and urgency to this fight to pass the For the People Act, which is the major voting rights legislation before the U.S. Senate,” O’Rourke told the Chronicle in an interview last week. “And frankly, we need the full attention of the president.”

“You’re not going to win this one on phone calls or tweets.” – Beto O’Rourke

The former congressman and candidate for both Senate and president is losing his patience with his colleagues in the party that’s supposedly in power. “I’m really frustrated at the lack of urgency,” O’Rourke said. “You’re not going to win this one on phone calls or tweets. The Texas House Democrats have taken this to the next level and are forcing people in Washington to acknowledge the sacrifice they’re making, away from their families, maybe losing their jobs, or facing arrest.”

This week’s march has the same potential, he thinks “to engage the conscience of the country in a way the typical political theater doesn’t have the power to do.” Hopefully, it will not involve the violence of Selma, but the organizers are well aware that “there may be those who try to intimidate or physically threaten the marchers along the way,” as O’Rourke puts it.

The Poor People’s Campaign is using its summer of direct action to demand not only protections of American’s voting rights, but also economic justice – a $15/hour federal minimum wage and permanent protections for the nation’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants. “We want all of our rights, and we want them now,” said Barber in a statement. “It is time to resist the extremist and monied powers that want to deny, abridge, and undermine all of our votes. The same people challenging voting rights are also challenging economic justice.”

The PPC and its partners ask that participants register for the march here. Below is the march’s schedule:

Tuesday, July 27

6pm: Evening service to launch the march at Christ Lutheran Church, 510 Luther Dr., Georgetown

Wednesday, July 28
7am: March begins at Christ Lutheran Church, Georgetown
2pm: March ends at Good Hope Baptist Church, 207 Chisholm Trail, Round Rock

Thursday, July 29

7am: March begins at Good Hope Baptist Church

2pm: March ends at North Austin Muslim Community Center, 11900 N. Lamar

Friday, July 30
7am: March starts at North Austin Muslim Community Center

2pm: March ends at University Baptist Church, 2130 Guadalupe St.

Saturday, July 31

7am: March starts at University Baptist Church

10am: Mass rally at the Texas State Capitol, 1100 Congress