NAACP President/CEO Cornell William Brooks was arrested and charged with trespassing Monday after he and the Roanoke NAACP Youth Council refused to leave the Roanoke office of Congressman Bob Goodlatte as they staged a sit-in.
The charges came after a six-hour, nonviolent protest calling for restoration of the Voting Rights Act in Goodlatte’s office. Goodlatte is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“After refusing to leave the building, Brooks was cited by Roanoke Police Department at the end of the business day along with Stephen Green, national director for the NAACP Youth and College Division. Both men were accompanied throughout the afternoon by members of the Roanoke NAACP and youth council, local media and NAACP supporters,” the NAACP said in a release.
Brooks and Green sat on the floor of the office while calling for a hearing on the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
An attorney, minister and two-year NAACP president, Brooks was refusing to leave Goodlatte’s office, protesting Goodlatte’s refusal to hold hearings on the re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for three years, according to a release. In his leadership of the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte has refused to hold hearings on legislation to combat egregious voter discrimination in recent years.
An earlier statement, released by the NAACP during the sit in said Brooks “told police that he will not leave unless arrested or he receives a response from the congressman.”
The sit-in began at 11 am. It reportedly followed a “morning of protest by the local chapter of the NAACP, where a group of youth and adult activists called for congressional action to restore federal protection against state laws barring ballot access in states with the worst histories of voter suppression and discrimination,” the statement says.
“In these past three years, we’ve seen a Machiavellian frenzy of voter suppression from one end of this country to the other, where states have worked systemically to make it harder for young people, college students, minorities to vote for the candidate and party of their choice on Nov. 8,” Brooks said. “With the fate of our national moral character at stake, we must hold our elected leaders responsible to act to uphold the constitutional rights guaranteed for all citizens to vote and participate in this Democracy.”
The release says that the protest and rally were being held “to honor the 51st anniversary since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965, effectively banning state laws that denied the vote to Black and minority voters for decades in Virginia and other southern states. Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of the law that prohibited states from changing local election laws without federal review in the case of Shelby v. Holder.
“Within days of the 2013 ruling, several states enacted exclusive voting laws designed to prevent young, old and minority residents from voting by requiring hard-to-obtain ID cards to register and cast a ballot on election days, as well as cutting back on successful registration programs and early voting hours that drove minority turnout to record-setting levels in 2008 and 2012. Federal courts last month struck down voting laws in Kansas, Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin as attempts to deliberately prevent entire populations from having easy access to the ballot.”
Brooks told police “Congressman Goodlatte said he would act if there was evidence of voter suppression. The Court of Appeals has ruled that there is widespread evidence of exactly that…It’s past time for Congressman Goodlatte to protect the same law he voted to re-authorize just 10 years ago.”