Pro-democracy campaigners in West Virginia and Arizona on Monday risked arrest at sit-ins in downtown Charleston and Tucson, demanding that Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema end obstruction of their party's agenda and allow the Senate to pass reproductive rights, climate action, and voting rights measures.
Campaigners representing a coalition of groups including West Virginia Rising, For All, Democracy Initiative, and Progress Arizona blocked traffic in central areas of the two cities, accusing the two senators of "laying waste to our future."
The campaign, called the "Sit-in for the Soul of America," was organized as President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act is stalled in the Senate. The package included ambitious climate action provisions, an extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit, and other measures to narrow the wealth gap in the United States.
Manchin pressured the Democratic Party last year to remove several key provisions from the legislation last year before announcing in December that he would not support the agenda.
Manchin and Sinema's refusal to back filibuster reform has also stood in the way of the Democrats' goals of passing the Women's Health Protection Act, which would protect the right to abortion care, and voting rights legislation.
"Senator Manchin, you have failed West Virginia," said one protester named Rylee, who according to West Virginia Rising recently staged a hunger strike to pressure Manchin to meet with her. "You have blood on your hands."
Several campaigners were arrested in Charleston after blocking traffic.
As the arrests were happening, West Virginia Rising wrote on social media that the group stood "in lockstep solidarity with our sisters-in-struggle in Arizona who just SHUT DOWN the roads there to protest Kyrsten Sinema."
"Our democracy is on life support," said the group. "Women's rights are on the chopping block. An ice shelf the size of NYC just broke off of Antarctica and scientists are warning that if emissions don't peak within three years we'll pass the point of no return."
"There's no time to ask nicely," West Virginia Rising added.
A mobile billboard was also displayed at the protest in Arizona, reading, "Senator Sinema is holding reproductive rights hostage in all 50 states."
"Bans off our bodies!" the sign read. "End the filibuster!"