Almost six decades after Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington D.C., his son, Martin Luther King III, and granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, joined Reverend Al Sharpton, other activists and thousands more in the nation’s capital at the “March On for Voting Rights” Saturday (Aug. 28).
CBS Washington, D.C., affiliate WUSA reported an estimated 50,000 people attended Saturday’s march, which began at McPherson Square before ending up at the National Mall. Martin Luther King III, his wife, Andrea Waters King, and Rev. Sharpton, along with other voting rights leaders organized the march to urge Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
According to the event page, “Since January, 48 states have introduced 389 bills that amount to shameful, outright voter suppression, and many have already become law.” “These laws suppress voting methods that enrich our democracy and lead to high turnout: banning ballot drop boxes and mail-in voting, reducing early voting days and hours, restricting who can get a mail-in ballot, prohibiting officials from promoting the use of mail-in ballots even when voters qualify, even criminalizing the distribution of water to voters waiting in the long lines these laws create racist, anti-democratic voter suppression laws amount to rigging the game. But in America, elections are not a game—and lives depend on their outcomes,” the site reads.
Marches were held simultaneously Saturday (Aug. 28) in D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix and more cities across America. Since the House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on Wednesday (Aug. 25), most of the speakers at the rally in D.C. focused their attention on the Senate.
“We are a force of nature,” King III told the crowd. “This is a battlefield of morals and you are armed with the truth and the truth is a flame, you cannot extinguish. People have done it before, and we’ll do it again. We will demand federal voting rights until we have them. So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give out. You are the dream, and this is our moment to make it true.”
His 13-year-old daughter Yolanda King, took the stage and spoke about “the torch” being passed. “I know activism works. I’ve seen it in my own family,” she said. “It’s time for our generation to wake up the world so we can stop talking about the dream and start living the dream…We will be the generation that earns and wins our freedom once and for all.”
Rev. Sharpton referenced the Capitol riot during his speech, saying on Jan. 6, “You saw an insurrection against people’s right to vote.” “Today you saw 20,000 walked through the streets to the Capitol to represent Dr. King’s resurrection of the right to vote,” he said. “No windows broke, nobody harmed. No disorder. This is how you come to the Capitol.”
In Atlanta, Bernice King, MLK Jr.‘s daughter told the crowd that the country is in a “state of emergency,” The Hill reported. “Voting rights is not an evanescent domestic issue that can be kicked about by reactionary guardians of the status quo. It is rather an eternal moral issue, which may well determine the destiny of our nation. The hour is late, the clock of destiny is ticking out, and we must act now before it’s too late,” she said. “The most significant threat to our democracy is principled men and women’s voices remaining silent on this issue and failing to yield to conscience by standing against laws that restrict access to vote.”
The “March On for Voting Rights” is the latest effort from voting rights advocates and Democratic members of Congress who hope to end the filibuster in the Senate and pass federal voting rights legislation before the 2022 midterm elections.
Check out clips from the event below: