PHOTOS AND VIDEOS: Martin Luther King III Leads Hundreds In Phoenix, AZ to Call for Voting Rights Legislation, Filibuster Reform

Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, and Arizona Organizers Call on Senator Sinema to Vote to Eliminate the Filibuster and Pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act   

PHOENIX, AZ — Today, Arizona organizers and more than 180 partner groups marked Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and the start of the MLK holiday weekend by calling on the Senate to eliminate the filibuster and pass national voting rights legislation.

The day’s events began with a brief rally outside Pilgrim’s Rest Baptist Church. From there, attendees marched along Jefferson St. and over the 16th St. overpass to send a message to Congress and the president: you delivered for bridges, now deliver for voting rights.

The crowd then filled the historic Eastlake Park Amphitheater to hear from speakers including Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, Yolanda Renee King, Rep. Gallego, Rep. Jones, State Rep. Bolding, and numerous local organizers, faith leaders, veterans, Indigenous activists, and more who took to the stage to demand Sen. Sinema stands on the right side of history by eliminating the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.

Watch the Full Event Here. 

View Photos Here (Photo credit: Harrison Mitchell) 

Videos Here (Video Credit: Elliot Farmer)

Photos and Videos available for public use

Musical acts including the Jack and Jill Youth Choir and Renee Morgan Brooks were interspersed between speakers. The event was emceed by Dr. Jannah Scott and Pastor Warren H. Stewart of the African American Christian Clergy Coalition and Joshua Wells, a community organizer with CASE Action Fund and UNITE Here Local 11. 

Key quotes from speakers: 

Martin Luther King III, Chairman of the Drum Major Institute:

“But today, on my father’s 93rd birthday, we are not here to celebrate… We are here to issue an urgent call to President Biden and the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act —  and a dire warning to the entire nation that our democracy stands on the brink without it. Earlier this week, the president said he is tired of being quiet about voting rights. Well we are tired of being patient.”

“To Senator Sinema, the filibuster is sacred — except for when it’s not. In 2010, she supported using reconciliation to get around the filibuster and pass healthcare reform. Just last month, she supported an exception to the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling. But she draws the line at protecting the rights of millions of voters. History will not remember her kindly.”

Arndrea Waters King, President of the Drum Major Institute:

“The filibuster is not some time-honored tradition that must be preserved to protect democracy. And even if it were, what good is a filibuster when preserving it will destroy the democracy it’s supposed to protect?”

“As a mother who wants to leave a better world for the next generation, I particularly feel the weight of this moment. Today, Yolanda and her peers have fewer rights than the day they took their first breath on this earth. What would MLK say about that? I ask Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin and all those who stand in the way of voting rights: is that the legacy you want to leave behind?”

Yolanda Renee King, Granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King:

“Though I never got to meet my grandfather, his lessons and drive for justice are in me. Most importantly, his lessons are passed down to me and young people across the country, during moments in history like this one that call for all of us to work together to correct injustice and advance equality.”

“One important lesson I’ve learned from my grandparents is that no matter how old you are, no matter who you are, all of us can create change when we choose to show up and speak out. I’m speaking especially to young people here in Phoenix, who have decided to show up on a Saturday morning to speak up and demand Senator Sinema protect their future right to vote.”

Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ):

“When you stand in the way of the Voting Rights Act, when you use an arcane Jim Crow era law to stop the Voting Rights Act, named for someone you claim is your hero — it is wrong. Senator Sinema, we got you in office. We were there for you when you ran for senator. We were there because you and I promised each other we would protect the voters of Arizona. It is time for you to fulfill your promise.” 

Representative Mondaire Jones (D-NY):

“Kyrsten Sinema claimed that the real threat to our democracy is our nation’s divisions. But Arizonans know better. You all know that divisions didn’t pass voter suppression laws right here in Arizona — Republicans did. Divisions didn’t try to overturn Arizona’s presidential election results — Republicans did. And divisions didn’t unanimously oppose voting rights legislation in the House just a few days ago. Republicans did that.”

Arizona State Representative Reginald Bolding, Founder and Co-Executive Director at Our Voice Our Vote Arizona:

“Arizonans have been on the frontlines for years, year after year as we witness an attempted assault on voting rights. We are calling on Senator Sinema to stand with our communities. The choice could not be more clear. Will you stand on the side of history, or will you stand in the way of progress?”

Ron Williams, Member of the Arizona Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration Committee:

“Voting rights matter — this is not a partisan issue. Even though our country was conceived in liberty, it is crying out for renewal today. I served my country and put my life on the line so that my fellow Americans could continue to live in a democracy and have the right to vote.”

Pastor Aubrey Barnwell, Senior Pastor of First New Life Church and Director of Operations for the African American Christian Clergy Coalition:

“The thing that came to my mind as we gathered and we marched, and I looked around and saw the diversity of people here, was the fact that we can do great things when we are unified. And this unity has been demonstrated today, as we have gathered and put aside our differences so that we might be able to send a message to Sinema and the Senate that the filibuster cannot stop us.”

Jawaher Abbas, Organizer at CASE Action Fund:

“As a Sudanese refugee, I believe it is important to give women, and my community, a voice. I would be killed in my country for doing this. As an American citizen I am grateful for the opportunities this country has given me. But the freedom to vote is under attack. That is why on this Martin Luther King Day I am on a hunger strike for voting rights. Because we must do everything we can to protect the right to vote.”

Fred Yamashita, Executive Director of the Arizona AFL-CIO:

“We will not allow a few radical extremist politicians to take away a right that generations of Black, Brown, and Indigenous activists have bled and died for. We will not allow a relic of Jim Crow to stand in the way of our freedom to vote. And we will not allow a mere matter of procedure conceived in racism prevent us from advancing our right to participate in this democracy.”

Mari Yepe, Organizer at UNITE HERE Local 11:

“A lot of people do not believe that we can challenge established power, whether it’s a multi-million corporation or Congress — but workers in our union who are primarily women of color know that just like the boss is never going to say to us, ‘I’d like to make your workplace better,’ politicians are not going to come to us and say, ‘I would like you to have a voice.’ It’s up to us to demand that our elected leaders represent us and protect and preserve our right to vote.”

Nathaniel Brown, Navajo Nation Council Delegate:

“The United States has a constitutional responsibility to protect all voting rights, including the rights of Black and Indigenous peoples. It is no secret that our vote has become stronger and more powerful than any time since the establishment of this country. We cannot stay silent at this moment in history. Federal legislation is sorely needed to establish a baseline for Indigenous voting rights.”

Joanna Sweatt, Lead Organizer at Common Defense:

“I am only one generation removed from the Civil Rights Act of 1965. My father wanted to realize his dream of freedom in America by committing to join the U.S. Air Force. Sadly, I am fighting the same fight my father and his ancestors have had to fight. Voting in America should be the easiest thing we all have access to. We need our elected officials to deliver for voting rights, and we demand they do it now.”