Family of Martin Luther King Jr lead voting rights march to mark MLK day
- Family members of Martin Luther King Jr lead a march demanding the passing of a voting rights bill in the US
- The bill aims at expanding federal voting rights legislation
- Republicans have call the bill a 'partisan power grab' and remain opposed to its passing
Martin Luther King III, King’s eldest son, his wife, Arndrea Waters King, and their daughter, Yolanda Renee King, are accompanied by their supporters and over 100 national and local civil rights groups to march across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge into Washington.
The group is urging US President Joe Biden to expand federal voting rights legislation in spite of opposition from the Republican party, Reuters reported.
King's son, Martin Luther King III, praised congressional Democrats for passing a sweeping infrastructure bill last year, but implored them to push through voting-rights legislation.
"You were successful with infrastructure, which was a great thing," King said at a rally before the march, "but we need you to use that same energy to ensure that all Americans have the unencumbered right to vote."
“Senators now face one of the most existential choices of their tenure: protect our voting rights or go down in history as an enabler of voter suppression,” he said in a statement last week, according to a report by The Guardian.
On Saturday, the king's eldest son urged Biden and the Senate to pass two measures aimed at expanding voting rights across the country – the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The bill in question would expand access to mail-in voting and boost federal oversight of elections in states with a history of racial discrimination and inequality. This is required to counter new restrictions on voting passed in states led by the Republican party, which could impinge on the rights of minority and low-income voters to cast their votes in ballots, as election experts fear would happen.
"Black voters risked everything – including their own health at the height of the pandemic – to vote Biden and Senate Democrats into office. It's time that officials in Washington treat us and our rights with the same level urgency," wrote Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown, co-founders of Black Voters Matter in a response to Biden's speech on voting rights speech in Atlanta, reported Reuters.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has said the chamber would take up the bill on Tuesday, a postponement from the earlier plan of holding the procedural vote on Monday.
Republicans have opposed the voting rights bill, calling it a 'partisan power grab'. Since they hold almost half of the seats in the Senate, the only way to pass the bill would be to change the chamber's 'filibuster' rule which requires at least 60 senators to agree to a legislation. This would involve convincing the two Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are against changing the rule.
First observed in 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated across the United States on the third Monday of January every year to honor the life and accomplishments of the civil-rights leader who worked relentlessly to achieve equality for people of all colors. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.
(With inputs from Reuters)