PHOTOS/VIDEOS: Nation Honors Dr. King by Calling on the Senate to Pass Voting Rights Legislation

Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, Speaker Pelosi, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Beatty, Rep. Sewell and More Leaders Deliver Urgent Call to Restore Democracy at D.C. Event

 180+ Groups and Voters Nationwide Join Martin Luther King III and His Family on MLK Day to Demand the Senate Eliminate the Filibuster and Pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, Yolanda Renee King and more than 180 Deliver For Voting Rights partner organizations honored Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with action by calling on the Senate to eliminate the filibuster and pass federal voting rights legislation. Hundreds gathered in D.C. for events to deliver a clear message to President Biden and the Senate: you delivered for bridges, now deliver for voting rights. As the Senate prepares to vote on legislation Tuesday, thousands more joined the call nationwide with mobilizations in cities across the country.

In Washington D.C., Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Joyce Beatty, Rep. Terri Sewell, and hundreds of D.C. residents delivered their message to the President and Senate during a march across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. The march was organized in partnership with the MLK Holiday Committee as part of the organization’s annual D.C. Peace Walk: Change Happens with Good Hope and a Dream.

Following the bridge crossing, Martin Luther King III and his family hosted a press conference at another example of our nation’s commitment to infrastructure, Washington D.C.’s Union Station. There, speakers, including Speaker Pelosi, urged the Senate not to pay lip service to Dr. King’s vision without protecting and expanding his voting rights legacy. During the press conference, which can be viewed at deliverforvotingrights.com, Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, Yolanda Renee King, Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Beatty, Rep. Sewell and more leaders spoke about the urgency to eliminate the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.

Watch the Full Event Here

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Photo Credit: Paul Morigi/AP Images for Deliver for Voting Rights

Photos from D.C. are available for public use here (Photo Credit: Paul Morigi/AP Images for Deliver for Voting Rights)

Videos from D.C. are available for public use here

MLK Day actions in D.C. followed a rally in Phoenix, Arizona on January 15, Dr. King’s birthday, where Martin Luther King III and his family, as well as Rep. Mondaire Jones, Rep. Ruben Gallego, State Rep. Reginald Bolding and hundreds of Arizonans marched to call on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to stand on the right side of history. The day’s events began with a rally outside Pilgrim’s Rest Baptist Church, followed by a march across the 16th St. overpass bridge.

Photos from Phoenix are available for public use here (Photo Credit: Harrison Mitchell)

Videos from Phoenix are available for public use here (Video Credit: Elliot Farmer)

The MLK Day mobilizations follow a year of coordinated attacks on the voting rights of Black and Brown communities. In 2021 alone, Republican state legislatures introduced over 400 anti-voting bills and enacted 34. These suppressive bills close polling centers, purge voter rolls, eliminate early voting, and gerrymander Black and Brown voters into predominantly white districts. Additionally, the Supreme Court’s decision in Brnovich v. DNC further gutted the Voting Rights Act, a bill Dr. King played an instrumental role in passing. Federal voting rights legislation will help overturn these Jim Crow-era state bills and put key protections in place.

In December, Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King launched the Deliver for Voting Rights Campaign to escalate the pressure on the President and Senate to legislate, not celebrate on MLK Day. Following the campaign launch, over 180 national and grassroots organizations representing millions of voters nationwide joined the effort, and over 800 faith leaders from across denominations issued a letter co-signed by the Kings to the President and Congress. The campaign effectuated a series of actions from elected officials. Soon after the campaign launched, Senate Majority Leader Schumer issued a Letter to Colleagues setting MLK Day as the deadline for rules reform debate and consideration. Over the last week, President Biden delivered a historic speech in Georgia supporting filibuster reform, Senate Majority Leader Schumer announced a procedural plan to move the vote forward, and the House of Representatives, thanks to Speaker Pelosi’s leadership, passed the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. Now on Tuesday, January 18, the Senate will vote on the federal voting rights bill and decide history.

Highlights from today’s press conference:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives:

“On behalf of the Congress, it was my official privilege to join the King family and many fierce fighters for voting rights today to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Inspired by the powerful advocacy of the King family, House Democrats are leading the charge in the Congress to protect the vote — and just last week, we proudly passed and sent to the Senate the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy this week, we continue to call on the Senate to enact this urgent voting rights legislation so that we may build a future worthy of his vision.”

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, U.S. House of Representatives:

“Today we come to seize the opportunities for justice that lay before us now, because we cannot redeem the soul of America without the courage to fight the barriers of cultural, systemic, environmental racism. In every term, we must remind America that we have the right now. The right for education, the right for childcare, housing, economic and social justice, but what it is all born out of is the right to vote. … We will not yield our efforts to enshrine voting rights legislation into law, nor will we allow a filibuster to filibuster away our democracy and our voting rights.”

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), U.S. House of Representatives:

“Today, as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. it can’t be a celebration… because we need legislation. We need the Senate to do its job. Almost six decades ago, John Lewis and the footsoldiers of the civil rights movement marched, fought, and yes, bled on a bridge for the equal right of all Americans to vote. Voting rights was never partisan until recently. The voting rights bill passed five times for reauthorization under four Republican presidents, but now we’re having a problem — a problem called the filibuster. I agree with my colleagues, I agree with the King family. We cannot let a process stand in the way.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser:

“I, like most Americans, find myself wondering what Dr. King would make of this moment we find ourselves in. … Dr. King was unapologetic in his fight for racial justice, social justice, and economic justice. We cannot advance our democracy or build stronger communities if Americans do not have a say when decisions are being made. So we’re speaking up for voting rights, but also speaking up for the 700,000 people here who don’t have a vote in their own Congress in their own city.”

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

“Don’t tell us what you believe in — show us with your votes. History will be watching what happens tomorrow. Black and Brown Americans will be watching what happens tomorrow. In 50 years, students will read about what happens tomorrow and know whether our leaders had the integrity to do what is right. Mr. President, Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, members of the Senate: pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act now!”

Arndrea Waters King, President of the Drum Major Institute:

“After the Civil War ended in 1865, do you know how long it took our country to ‘come together’ and overcome our ‘disease of division’ to get it passed? One hundred years. … If Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema maintain their position, they will extend white supremacy’s chokehold on our democracy and consign themselves to the same foolish legacy. Do they want us to wait another hundred years to have our rights restored?”

Yolanda Renee King, Director of Youth Programming for the Drum Major Institute and Granddaughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King:

“For all the elected leaders out there who are tweeting, posting, and celebrating my grandfather Dr. King today, my message to you is simple: do not celebrate, legislate. The Senate must do the right thing when this legislation comes to a vote tomorrow. Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin: our future hinges on your decision and history will remember what choice you made.”

DaMareo Cooper, Co-Chair of the Center for Popular Democracy:

“Today, we gotta make a choice. Everything that’s been said about the history of the Voting Rights Act and the filibuster and how the filibuster has been used to continue racial oppression. No matter what happens tomorrow, whether they do the right thing or they choose to do the wrong thing and hold up this system of oppression… Dr. King said ‘it’s a long arc, but it bends towards justice.’ The force that bends that arc is us. And we got work to do.”

Kelley Robinson, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“This crisis has once again laid bare the cracks in our democracy, but right now we have the power. We actually have the power to fix them, the power to ensure that America starts to fulfill her promise to us. So that’s why I’m here today. I am here because our power is actually in our vote. It’s the power to build a better life for ourselves and our families. … It is the power that we need to make our own decisions about our health care, about our bodies, including the decision of whether or not to have an abortion.”

Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association:

“It’s almost impossible to comprehend that the progress we’ve made is in jeopardy. But here we stand, in 2022, on this day that we annually set aside to honor the legacy of Dr. King, calling on President Biden and Vice President Harris to demand that the Senate do what’s right, do what it must… We will not allow Congress to set aside its responsibility to defend our democracy. Every eligible voter in this nation must be able to cast their ballots safely and freely, and they must be able to do that without partisan politicians sabotaging the results of their elections.”

Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation:

“Dr. King said ‘the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by human beings for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison people because they are different from others.’ … The attack on voting rights, the attack on reproductive rights, even critical race theory is all connected because it’s about ‘us vs. them’ and not ‘we.’ So we the people will keep fighting, we will keep marching, we will keep protesting until we win.”

LaTosha Brown, Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter:

“My question to you is, ‘what would America look like without racism?’ I ask that question because that’s the vision that I’m standing on and that I believe in. At the end of the day, aren’t we tired of the lies? Aren’t we tired of being divisive? Aren’t we tired of folks being in positions of power while the rest of us want something? We all want better lives for our children, we all want quality education, we all want health care, we all want to be treated with dignity and respect. So I stand today on this podium in the spirit of the movement to remind you we can win. There’s enough of us to change the tide… I guarantee you we can move beyond the transaction of a bill and we can transform this America to be the America that is laid out in the Constitution.”

Cliff Albright, Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter:

“In 1957, when Dr. King spoke and said ‘give us the ballot,’ he did not say that and ask for that thinking that one day we’d be asked to give up that ballot and sacrifice that ballot at the altar of bipartisanship. … We’ve got two things: we got love, and we got power. As Dr. King talked about these two things, he reminded us that we need both these things together… What we know, what our history shows us, is when we combine those two things we can do some mighty, mighty things. And so that’s what we’re about to do.”

Rahna Epting, Executive Director of MoveOn:

“I’m here to deliver a simple message to the United States Senate: history is watching. History is watching whether you stand up and safeguard our democracy and our right to vote or whether you shamelessly and cowardly hide behind the filibuster that has been used throughout history to deny our civil rights and our voting rights. The choice today could not be more clear or more stark: we can safeguard our democracy or we can have the filibuster, but we cannot have both. Every day that Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin enable the Republican filibuster of this bill is another day our democracy and our freedom to vote is under attack.”

Joi Chaney, Executive Director, Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President, Policy and Advocacy at National Urban League:

“In the battle for our democracy, it is the only question that really matters: which side are you on? It only feels uncomfortable because the stakes are so high, because the answer of which side you should be on is so clear. This isn’t a minor matter upon which good people can disagree. The question is, are you on the side of the right to vote for all Americans? Or are you on the side of those who would block that right for political, cynical, and yes, racist reasons?”

Rev. Liz Theoharis, Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign:

“As the Rev. Dr. King said just months before he was shot down, ‘there is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed…’ The nation is in desperate need of ambulance drivers who are prepared to run through the red lights of the present system. To protect voting rights, to abolish the filibuster, to invest in the infrastructure of our democracy and our daily lives.”

Ramón Cruz, President of Sierra Club:

“We need a robust representative democracy to ensure that our demands for a clean, healthy environment and safety from the climate crisis are heard in the halls of power. But time and again, Leader McConnell and the Republican Party have exploited the filibuster to block progress on climate action, equal pay, raising the minimum wage, and to stop Congress from protecting our most fundamental freedom in democracy: the freedom to vote. The only way around this extreme obstruction is for Democrats to change the filibuster rule.”

Stephanie Young, Executive Director of When We All Vote:

“The American people did their part, and they deserve a Senate who believes in democracy and leaders who will protect them and their work… Not to mention 83 percent of Americans support Federal voting rights legislation, while the minority of the Senate has blocked or filibustered our progress. Let us release ourselves from the chains of the filibuster that block any progress. It has no basis in the Constitution, and it has a racist — and a very present — past.”

Taifa Smith Butler, President of Demos:

“It’s laws in 19 states across this country that are chipping away at the very foundation of our democracy, and it doesn’t stop at the ballot box. We have to understand that these efforts also undermine our ability to show up and protest — our freedom of voice is at risk. Our ability to teach our children the truth about American history is on the line today. Make no mistake, there is a coordinated, systematic effort state by state to attack the fundamental right to vote today, and that attack warrants immediate federal action.”

Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of League of Women Voters:

“We’re gathered here as a community to pay tribute to a man who dedicated his life to service and justice for all. And it is in his footsteps that the fight for voting rights continues. We wish we didn’t have to be here… but we must, because we have a Senate that refuses to pass bipartisan voting rights legislation. And in absence of that bipartisanship we have two senators who are refusing to remove the filibuster as a barrier to this legislation. So now we find ourselves in a historic moment that will define the future of America. Will we become an autocracy or will we remain a democracy?”

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