I came home from a show around 11 o’clock last night and planned to tune in to the live feed of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s 13-hour filibuster meant to kill the vote on an anti-choice bill that would have effectively shut down almost every abortion provider in the state. I got online just after Davis had been told that her filibuster would have to end due to the lack of “germaneness” of her discussion about sonograms as related to abortion law. This was a shameful move on the part of the Texas GOP, and one that was questioned by Davis’s Democratic colleagues for almost long enough to end the voting session at midnight central time.
As I watched the drama unfold, I shared my reactions on Twitter, along with thousands of others watching from all over the country. Many viewers were critical of the fact that no mainstream media outlets were covering this historic event, and yet there was an enormous sense of collective consciousness and pride in the fact, that as Joy Press noted, “the revolution was not televised.” As we all sat wracked with concern over whether or not Democrats like Judith Zaffirini and Kirk Watson could stall long enough with “parlimentary inquiries” and procedural questions about the Senate rules no one seemed to have a handle on, finally a hero appeared in the form of Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, who had come to the session from her father’s funeral, and who asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
The crowd of Davis supporters gathered in the gallery burst out into applause and cheers that lasted for over 10 minutes. (Click here for an emotionally overwhelming clip of the crowd chanting, “Hell no we won’t go.”) Everyone I was watching the feed with on Twitter admitted to crying and feeling extraordinarily moved by what many have described as “a people’s filibuster” and “democracy in action.” Tweets poured in about people power and supporters from points all over the country were cheering along at home and sending messages of support in the hopes that our energy would flood the Texas Capitol.
According to the AP, Sen. Donna Campbell shouted to a security guard, “Get them out!” and “Time is running out, I want them out of here!” In an incredible moment proving democracy and freedom of speech in America is not totally dead, law enforcement bowed to the will of the protesters, allowing them to stay and have their say. The AP reported this morning, “The noise never stopped and despite barely beating the midnight end-of-session deadline with a vote to pass the bill, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the chaos in the chamber prevented him from formally signing it before the deadline passed, effectively killing it.”
I went to bed before it was clear whether or not the bill would be considered passed, though several news sources were reporting that it had passed. Observers were gobsmacked that anyone – the GOP leaders, but especially the media – would rush to declare the bill passed when nearly 200,000 online witnesses saw a chaotic and fraudulent vote being attempted over the formidable chants of protesters and amidst ethical and procedural questioning from Senate members. I felt not just relief, but surprise, when I woke up to the news that the bill was officially dead, and that the unscrupulous efforts of Republicans did not win the day.
I feel amazed to have witnessed this incredible moment in history, and to know that the “Occupy Wall Street tactics” applied by protesters, as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who ran the proceedings, described them, worked. Gov. Rick Perry may still call another special session to try to pass the bill. For more on the bill’s implications, read this piece on The Huffington Post.