The grassroots group Advocates for Social Justice is trying to make it easier for people to vote in the upcoming general election. The group is offering free Uber rides for Linn County voters and is organizing various events near polling places.
Early voting in Iowa began on Monday. County auditors began mailing out absentee ballots to individuals who requested one and early in-person voting sites opened in each county. Johnson and Linn counties each opened a number of early in-person voting locations.
ASJ’s Uber voucher is available to Linn County voters who need a ride to the polls. The voucher can be used for those voting in-person early or on Election Day. The group is also hosting happy hours and other events near in-person polling locations. More information about these events can be found on ASJ’s Facebook page.
The importance of voting has also been a prominent theme during the various protests and events ASJ has been organizing since June. Speakers have strongly encouraged attendees to vote in the upcoming election and there have been voter registration tables at every event. Sunday’s #SayTheirNames event was no different.
Dozens of people gathered at Redmond Park in Cedar Rapids on Sunday for an event organized by ASJ and the group PAVE, which stands for Parents Against Violence Everywhere. The event included various speakers, a DJ, food for attendees and a voter registration table.
Speakers, before the event officially started and during, encouraged individuals to register to vote, including anyone who has a felony conviction. In early August, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order that automatically restored the voting rights of almost all Iowans who have been convicted of a felony.
ASJ member Anthony Arrington emphasized the importance of every vote.
“Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t count,” Arrington said. “Don’t tell me what you’re doing out here today doesn’t count.”
“People that make laws are the reason why the police are walking free for killing Breonna Taylor. Policymakers make laws and who puts policymakers in office? You. So if we want that shit going on around here? Stop voting. But if you want to change our little backyard and our little area … vote, because don’t you think it can’t happen here.”
Almost all of the other speakers mentioned Breonna Taylor in their remarks. Taylor was killed in March by Louisville police officers during a botched raid. She was sleeping when the officers forced entry into her apartment. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was awake and thought the police were intruders. He fired a warning shot at them. The officers fired in return.
On Sept. 15, the city of Louisville agreed to pay her family $12 million and implement changes to its police department as part of a wrongful death lawsuit. About a week later, on Sept. 23, a grand jury indicted one of the now-former officers for wanton endangerment.
According to reporting from the New York Times:
“But the charges against Mr. Hankison are not for killing Ms. Taylor. None of the 10 shots he fired are known to have struck her. Instead, the Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron, who is overseeing the prosecution, said the former detective was charged by the grand jury because the shots he fired had passed through Ms. Taylor’s apartment walls into a neighboring apartment, endangering three people there.”
None of the officers have been charged with Taylor’s death.
Joshua Milam, senior pastor of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, was one of four faith leaders who spoke at Sunday’s event. Milam said he’s “sick and tired of being sick and tired” over Black people being killed.
“We now live in a society where you can put a number on a soul to the fact that you can say how much somebody costs to stay alive,” Milam said. “It’s crazy to me, and I’m still upset about it. That Breonna Taylor literally did not get no justice. They tried to offer money and face on a playground as if that would subdue the pain of losing the life of somebody.”
Milam said “now is the time to get in the fight.” He encouraged people to vote but also said it shouldn’t stop at voting.
“We need to vote, but we also need to put some action under our feet to keep moving,” Milam said. “Don’t get comfortable, and don’t let the silence set in as if we are in a place where everything is good.”