January 5, 2022

Rally Planned to Protect Voting Rights, Commemorate January 6 Insurrection

By Donald Gilpin

Hundreds of demonstrators are expected to fill Hinds Plaza adjacent to the Princeton Public Library from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on January 6 to reflect on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol a year ago and to call for the protection of voting rights.

“In America, the voters decide the outcome of elections,” states a press release from event co-sponsors the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), Indivisible Cranbury, Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), Our Revolution Trenton Mercer, and RepresentUS, and the demonstrators will be demanding that elected leaders pass legislation including the Freedom to Vote Act, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and DC Statehood.

January 6, 2022 marks one year since the violent attack on the Capitol building, and, according to vigil organizers, the same faction of elected officials that incited those rioters continues to work to restrict the freedom to vote and to attack fair voting districts.

“I don’t think people fully comprehend how much under duress our democracy is now and how close we are to losing it,” said Indivisible Cranbury leader and rally co-organizer Laura Zurfluh. “And how close we were to losing it last year.”

CFPA executive director and rally co-organizer the Rev. Robert Moore also emphasized the urgency of the current political situation. “If we can’t maintain the Constitutional guarantees and the Constitutional structures then we’re no more than a banana dictatorship,” he said. “It’s a very scary time. I don’t believe in overstating the fear factors, because we have a lot of positives too, but this is a serious situation that requires serious attention and serious organizing.”

Rally participants will be encouraged to stand vigil holding battery-powered candles. They are also urged to wear masks and to observe physical distancing as much as possible.

In addition to Moore and Zurfluh, confirmed speakers include Princeton Councilmember David Cohen, Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church Pastor the Rev. Lukata Mjumbe, PCDO President Afsheen Shamsi, and New Jersey State Senator-Elect Andrew Zwicker.

Shamsi emphasized the urgency of this rally and the importance of coming together to stand up for democracy at this time. “One of the beautiful things about America has always been that we have stood united in our beliefs around the strength of our democracy and the ideals of our democracy,” she said. “What happened on January 6 of last year really changed all that because we have a group of insurrectionists, which is by no means a small minority. There is a significant number of people across the country who are working to weaken our democracy, and we’re no longer united as a nation behind the ideals of democracy that have stood firm for centuries since the United States was first formed.”

She went on, “We all need to stand up for our democracy, stand up for our democratic ideals and join this event and unify behind a call for democracy in the United States.”

The January 6 event in Princeton is one of more than 220 vigils and rallies scheduled to take place across the country, including at the U.S. Capitol. 

Rally organizers will be passing out postcards containing contact information for U.S. senators and information about the bills currently before the Senate created to enact legislation that protects democracy and the right to vote. According to rally organizers, the Freedom to Vote Act will protect voting rights, stop partisan gerrymandering, limit the influence of dark money, and prevent partisan politicians from sabotaging future elections. 

The Protecting Our Democracy Act is designed to create and strengthen protections against the abuse of power and to restore fundamental checks and balances; the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was written to protect voting rights by making sure that any changes to voting rules that could discriminate against voters based on race or background are federally reviewed; and DC Statehood would give equal voice to the residents of Washington, D.C. and end more than 200 years of taxation without representation.

Zurfluh noted a number of causes that she is concerned about and emphasized her desire to be able to influence change in this country. “That doesn’t happen in an autocracy,” she said. “There is no knight in shining armor who’s coming to save our democracy. The only way you save a democracy is when the people decide to save it. That’s how this democracy was created with a coming together of people back in 1776, and that’s the only way we’re going to save this democracy.”

Calling the current situation “the most serious threat to democracy in my lifetime,” Moore pointed out that 33 laws have recently been passed in 19 different states, including many with the most electoral votes, “that make it harder for voters to cast their ballots, and give the power to oversee official election outcomes to hyper-partisan state legislatures. These are clear and present dangers to our most sacred democratic rights in America.”

Moore cited historic past victories for voting rights such as giving African Americans the right to vote, women’s suffrage, and the Voting Rights Act of 1964. “We now need to rise to overcome the major challenges to protecting voting rights today,” he said.

For more information on Princeton’s January 6 rally and vigil see “Upcoming Events” at peacecoalition.org.