Supporting Social Justice and Democracy

To the editor:

Saturday, June 19 is the 156th anniversary of the date when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, and pronounced that all enslaved people in Texas were forever free.

Known as Juneteenth, the date has been celebrated and commemorated since by many Black people in the United States. Juneteenth is also now recognized in all but three states and there is an effort to have the date declared a national holiday.

Despite this history, there are still efforts to diminish the ability of many Americans to participate in the country’s democracy. Although no one will say the measures are intended to make it harder for or to keep Black people and other people of color from voting, the result will be just that.

Gerrymandering looms around the corner in many states. There were close to 400 bills in 48 state legislatures this year with intent to restrict access to polling places and hours, to increase I.D. requirements, to purge voter rolls, to restrict automatic voter registration, and early, absentee and military voting. The proposals aim at disability accessibility, criminal disenfranchisement, giving rides to the polls and even making it illegal to give water to people waiting in line to vote. As of mid-May, 22 new restrictive laws were enacted in 14 states.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School details these efforts. To learn more, go to brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-may-2021.

As many may know, a small group stands in vigil each Saturday in Hardwick in witness to the importance of Black lives, to the importance of democracy for all. People first gathered in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. Many still do in other towns, and the Vermont Legislature increased voter access and passed resolutions addressing racism. There are people in the state, however, who do not believe Black Lives Matter. Many people drive by each Saturday and tap their horns or give a thumbs-up in support. There are others each week who yell, “White Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter,” “Black Lives Don’t Matter” and some raise a middle finger instead of a thumb.

It is important to continue to offer witness that “Black Lives Matter” in Hardwick and everywhere.

Thank you to those who joined us and support this effort. We hope you will stand with us at the intersection of Wolcott and Main streets from 3-5 p.m., on Juneteenth.

Ross Connelly
Hardwick