The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son is leading a movement of more than 100 organizations to unite behind voting rights, with a march scheduled in Washington, D.C., and cities across the country Aug. 28, the 58th anniversary of his father’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Martin Luther King III along with other civil rights leaders behind the “March On for Voting Rights,” including the Rev. Al Sharpton and Alejandro Chavez, the grandson of labor and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, are demanding that Congress pass legislation to protect and expand voting rights at a time when Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country have passed or introduced hundreds of new voting restrictions, which a Washington Post analysis found will probably disproportionately affect Black voters.
Arndrea Waters King, Martin Luther King III’s wife and a leader of the march, points to the new elections law in Georgia that prohibits “any person” from giving food and water to anyone waiting to vote.
“We are at a critical, critical juncture in our nation. If we don’t have victories, which I believe that we will have, the impact will be felt for generations. This is that critical of an issue and a time,” Arndrea Waters King said in an interview. “If you have always, growing up, wondered if you would’ve marched with Martin Luther King Jr., my question now is: Are you marching now?”
Martin Luther King III said that he is expecting thousands to travel to Washington, D.C., for the march, with other marches happening across the country, including in four other major cities: Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Phoenix.
Leaders of the march all said the fight for voting rights must include addressing the lack of congressional representation for residents of the nation’s capital.
“Year after year, advocates travel to Washington, D.C., to fight against injustice and in favor of equality. And many of them leave without mentioning the largest stain on our democracy,” said Stasha Rhodes, the campaign manager for 51 for 51, a coalition fighting for D.C. statehood, and a march organizer. “We can’t talk about ‘for the people’ without mentioning all the people, and that includes the residents of Washington, D.C.”
Partners in the march include March On, the Service Employees International Union, March for Our Lives and Indivisible, organizers said.
Despite several voting rights protests over the past months by civil rights leaders, low-wage workers, members of the clergy, state lawmakers and some Democratic senators, the Senate adjourned Wednesday for a monthlong summer recess without more progress on voting rights legislation.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival was also back in Washington, D.C., on Thursday with faith leaders and members of the Democratic Texas delegation who fled to Washington to block the passage of new voting restrictions, to call for federal voting rights protections and a $15 federal minimum wage.
Voting rights advocates are supporting the For the People Act, a sweeping elections and ethics bill that would impose national standards for voting and override state-level restrictions, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aims to restore key provisions in the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court weakened in 2013. They have stalled in the Senate because of the filibuster, which allows a united minority of 41 senators to block legislation. Protesters have called on Democratic senators to eliminate the rule.
“What the George Floyd movement showed was that we could be intergenerational and interracial, and I think that has now energized the voting rights movement,” Sharpton said, referring to the diverse coalition of groups rallying around the Aug. 28 marches. “This is not something we are commemorating from ’63. This is something we’re saying right now needs to be passed.”