Bowman arrested during voting rights protest outside Capitol

Congressman Jamaal Bowman with students at Capitol Hill advocating for the federal Voting Rights Act.
Photo courtesy Twitter

Progressive Bronx U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman had handcuffs slapped on him Thursday alongside at least 20 others, who had been on a hunger strike to promote the passage of a federal voting rights bill.

The legislation, which was voted down in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, would have expanded early and mail-in voting and made Election Day a national holiday.

The activists, who were at the Capitol all week on a hunger strike, were first joined by Bowman Wednesday, yet when he returned Thursday afternoon they were all in handcuffs. Bowman was told by authorities the activists were in an area of the Capitol they were not permitted to be.

“The Capitol and the House is supposed to be the people’s house,” Bowman, whose district includes both the Bronx and Westchester, told the Bronx Times. “I went … over to them to shake their hands to show them love. As I was doing that, an officer came over to me and said you’re under arrest.”

The group, incident Bowman, were were only in handcuffs for about an hour and a half and were told to pay fines. While he was arrested, the lawmaker observed how differently he was treated because he was an elected official.

He said often cops can be physical when they arrest people of color, but when he was in cuffs, they were polite.

“I noticed how there are two justice systems,” he said.

However, his stance alongside the activists did not go unnoticed. The group chanted “Jamaal Bowman is a freedom fighter and he taught us how to fight.”

In turn, Bowman also praised the activists. “I just wanted to do something,” he said. “I wanted to be there with them and show them love. I told them I would come back today.”

Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.