Martin Luther King’s family and Vice President Harris call for action for suffrage

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WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) – The family of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and their supporters, some shouting: “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Voter suppression must go,” marched in Washington on Monday demanding the adoption of a law aimed at protecting voters from racial discrimination.

As part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day DC Peace March, the King family and more than 100 national and local civil rights groups crossed the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge calling on President Joe Biden’s Democrats to pass a bill in the US Senate.

The march followed a disappointing week for Biden, who took to the Capitol to urge Senate colleagues to change filibuster rules so they can overcome Republican opposition to the bill, only to be voted down. forcefully by two conservative Democrats who effectively hold the veto power in the equal split. bedroom.

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In a separate speech broadcast live from Reverend King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Vice President Kamala Harris also urged the Senate to act, warning that efforts to restrict voting in some US states could make it more difficult the vote of millions of Americans.

“We must not be complacent or complicit,” Harris said. “We must not give up, and we must not give in. To truly honor the legacy of the man we celebrate today, we must continue to fight for freedom to vote, for freedom for all.”

At a pre-March rally on Monday, King’s son, Martin Luther King III, praised Democrats for passing a sweeping infrastructure bill last year, but implored them to push through voting rights legislation.

“You succeeded with the infrastructure, which was a good thing,” King told a crowd of hundreds, “but we need you to use that same energy to ensure that all Americans have the right to vote without hindrance.”

King III, his wife, Arndrea Waters King, and their daughter Yolanda Renee King led the march across the bridge.

“We need to make sure everyone in this country can go to the polls, vote and have their vote heard,” said Lisa Meunier, 53, of Washington, who joined the marchers.

The bill before the Senate would expand access to mail-in voting, strengthen federal oversight of elections in states with a history of racial discrimination and tighten campaign finance rules. Democratic supporters argue it is necessary to counter a wave of new restrictions on voting passed in Republican-led states that election observers say would make it harder for minority and low-income voters to vote.

New restrictions have emerged following former President Donald Trump’s false claims that his defeat in the 2020 election was the result of widespread fraud.

“HISTORY WILL REMEMBER”

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said the chamber would consider the bill on Tuesday, a delay from his earlier plan to hold a procedural vote on the bill by Monday, a federal holiday in the US. King’s honor.

Republicans, who hold half of the 100 Senate seats, are united against the bill, which they call a partisan power grab. That leaves Biden and Schumer with only one avenue to push it through: Persuade conservative Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to agree to change the chamber’s filibuster rule that requires at least 60 senators agree on most laws.

Yolanda Renee King addressed comments to the two recalcitrant senators after the march.

“Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, our future depends on your decision, and history will remember your choice,” she said.

Some civil rights groups in Georgia who helped propel Biden to presidential victory in the 2020 election boycotted his voting rights speech in Atlanta last week, saying they were disappointed with Biden’s lack of action. .

“Black voters risked everything — including their own health at the height of the pandemic — to get Biden and Senate Democrats elected,” Black Voters Matter co-founders Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown wrote in response to the speech. of Biden.

“It’s time for officials in Washington to treat us and our rights with the same level of urgency.”

If these groups lose their enthusiasm for the Democrats, it could increase the party’s chances of losing their wafer-thin majorities in at least one chamber of Congress in the November 8, 2022 election.

Yolanda Townsend, who called herself a “senior” from the Washington, D.C. area, said at Monday’s rally that she found Biden’s speech in Georgia timely and forceful.

“I wish it had been shot sooner, but I think a line in the sand has been drawn and you’re either with us or against us,” Townsend said.

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Reporting by Jan Wolfe in Washington and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Written by James Oliphant; Editing by Scott Malone, Howard Goller and Bill Berkrot

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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