VSU professor addresses being arrested in voting rights protest at US Capitol

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 10:59 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 11:15 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Thursday marked one week since a Virginia State University professor and an Ohio lawmaker were arrested at the United States Capitol, protesting what they call voter suppression.

Those involved called it a peaceful demonstration, but when Capitol Police officers warned them three times to leave, they never did. The Virginia State University political science department chair and former Charlottesville councilman says this is a teachable moment that won’t stop him from standing up for what he believes.

“We will not be pacified by just COVID vaccine shots and stimulus checks,” Wes Bellamy said.

He is a familiar face in Virginia, known for taking a bold stance on issues he feels leave communities disenfranchised. It’s why he joined Ohio Representative Joyce Beatty in a march on the US Capitol last week, calling on lawmakers to acknowledge what they call voter suppression everywhere.

“In Georgia, right now, it is illegal to hand out water or provide refreshments while an individual is waiting in line, and that penalty is able to be enforced with a felony…In a place like Georgia, the weather and temperature, like this summer, can get up to 95 and 100 degrees and it’s illegal to hand out water; that is a clear indication of voter suppression,” he said.

Bellamy also points to voting precincts that are being consolidated, meaning more voters flooding fewer precincts.

“Let’s say two or 300 people are looking to vote in an hour and the line backs up, in which it takes three or four hours to vote…You are discouraged or disenfranchised to go out and vote,” he added.

When the small group of protestors took their message inside the Capitol building, officers asked them to leave but they didn’t.

“Did you at the time think that was a risky move?” NBC12′s Brent Solomon asked.

“There’s no such thing as a risk when we’re fighting for what’s right. For me, I’m willing to risk it all. My ancestors literally died for the right for us to be able to vote, and that is the least in which we can pay them back,” Bellamy continued.

They were charged with misdemeanors. Rep. Beatty quickly took to Twitter saying, “You can arrest me. You can’t stop me. You can’t silence me.”

“People who have been lynched or severely beaten just for the fundamental basic right to be able to vote, the least I can do in terms of which our voting rights are under attack is go out and peacefully protest and let my voice be heard,” Bellamy said.

Thursday, a second US representative, Georgia lawmaker Hank Johnson, along with nine others, was arrested at another voting rights protest at the Capitol.

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