Anyone who tuned into Tuesday night’s filibuster drama knows just how important a role the crowd played, yelling and shouting at one point for 15 minutes straight. Lawmakers may have been able to pass Senate Bill 5 if not for the din under the dome.
And members of the crowd say they’re prepared to do it all over again.
Supporters of Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster attempt packed the gallery, the foyer, the basement and the sidewalk outside the Capitol, and they weren’t content to just sit and watch.
Dallas native Chris Graves just moved to Austin. He arrived by himself Tuesday, intent to witness a little piece of history and stand up for women’s rights.
“I’m not as directly affected, however, my family members and my friends, they certainly are as women in this state,” Graves says. “And I felt it was important to represent them.”
University of North Texas graduate Betty Austin was also keen to be part of such a monumental evening. The crowd at the capitol was so thick; she quickly got separated from her friends. But as it turned out, that didn’t matter.
“I got there with a group but I ended up by myself and I looked around and everyone around me was a friend,” Austin says. “We were all there for the same reason.”
After Davis’ filibuster attempt ended, the crowd took over. Their cheering and jeering was so loud, it seemed like part of a grand plan. Chris Graves says people in the gallery were trying to stall. But their decision to drown out Senate business happened in the moment.
“The word just kind of spread through the crowd, just make as much noise as you can and delay this any way possible,” says Graves. “And so we, we made more noise than any sporting event I’ve ever been to in my entire life. It was quite something.”
At first, there was some confusion about whether the Senate managed to get a vote in before 12. A few hours later, Senate leaders admitted they hadn’t.
Protestors arose Wednesday with sore feet and scratchy throats, but Betty Austin says, she also has a newfound sense of purpose.
“I woke up this morning and I felt so proud of what we had done. I want to tell everybody,” Austin says.
Governor Rick Perry could still call another special session, forcing this issue all over again. But protestor Wendy Sanders, who was front and center Tuesday night, says the crowd will be ready for round two.
“So if they want to bring the fight back, we’ll bring it right back to them, only it will be 20 times worse,” says Sanders. “There are thousands of us and there are a handful of you. How do you think it’s going to go?”
If Tuesday’s night’s brouhaha is any indication, anything’s possible.