CCJ Organizing Fellow, Prem, joins allies in DC to protect our rights

Posted Oct 27, 2020, by Prem Rajgopal


This is the 20th installment in our What’s on your mind? blog series and was written by Organizing Fellow Prem Rajgopal.

As I got off the Greyhound bus in DC, I was already exhausted. It was a six and half hour trip from Pittsburgh, and I arrived at 7am on Sunday. But I was ready to perform one of our Constitution’s most fundamental rights, guaranteed by the First Amendment (one that the current Supreme Court nominee could not remember when asked about in the hearing): the right to protest.

I was in town to join organizers from the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and various other organizations to protest the hearing for the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. We were gathered to tell our Republican senators to vote against the nomination (due to the blatant hypocrisy they were demonstrating in regard to how they handled Merrick Garland’s nomination vs. this one) and to tell our Democratic senators to use every tool available to delay the confirmation until after the inauguration of the next President.

There were various actions throughout the week. Monday started early with a gathering to wake up Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator on the judiciary committee who refuses to get tested for COVID. There were multiple marches and spaces for organizers to get to know each other, and the day culminated with an intense rally. Agitators who were in DC to support the nominee were loudly yelling over the speakers and we had to literally lock arms and hold caution tape to mark off our space.

The big action on Tuesday was a march around the Hart Senate Office Building. We donned T-shirts and pins to remind our senators that they should be working on COVID relief, not this sham hearing.

On Wednesday we unfurled giant banners saying “let the people decide,” and claimed our permitted space on the lawn near the Capitol Building. Another rally was held later in the day, where I had the pleasure of meeting an organizer with the Sunrise Movement in DC (I am personally a part of the Sunrise Movement in Pittsburgh).

Thursday drew the biggest crowd, and our goal was to delay the Democratic senators as they walked out of the hearings. We moved out and about throughout the morning, and congregated near a Go-Go truck for a moment of joy where we listened to songs and danced. We eventually got to meet with Senators Whitehouse and Booker who stressed that now was the time to organize.

Throughout the week I was constantly reminded why this nomination affected me on a personal level. As a queer, bipolar, brown person, this nomination was a direct attack on multiple facets of my identity. Barrett has a concerning record on LGBTQIA+ issues. In addition, she directly wants to challenge the Affordable Care Act, which allowed me to stay on my parents’ plan and get the medications and treatment I needed when I was first diagnosed. Finally, Barrett’s ruling against properly addressing racial injustices in the workplace is extremely concerning.

I took my last few hours in DC to reflect on the week. I recognized the creeping fascism that we were up against. But I also understood that it was imperative that Democrats used every tool available to stop this sham hearing. Seeing Diane Feinstein hug Lindsey Graham was a disgusting show of a Democrat who is not taking the gravity of this situation seriously.

But beyond the political implications of last week, I personally met so many awesome organizers with CPD and other organizations. It was incredibly heartening to see folks fighting on the right side of history. While we didn’t successfully stop the hearings as we intended, we furthered the fight for justice and made our voices heard. As we chanted many times throughout the week, “this is what democracy looks like!”


  • Prem Rajgopal

    Prem (pronounced like frame with a p instead of an f) is an organizing fellow with the Center for Coalfield Justice who grew up in suburban Pittsburgh. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern California in Mechanical Engineering and his Master’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Civil Engineering with a focus in Sustainable Engineering. At Pitt, he discovered his passion for organizing around environmental justice and decided to pivot away from the engineering world. Prem is very interested in the intersection of labor and people, centering economics with environmental justice. When he’s not busy organizing, he’s probably listening to music (according to Spotify, he listened to 125 days of music last year). But when he’s not listening to music (or sometimes when he is), you can find him playing chess or basketball, eating incredibly spicy food or copious amounts of ice cream, reading books or listening to podcasts, and enjoying snobby or cheap beer alike with his friends.

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