MLK’s family and activists honor civil rights leader with voting rights march

The family of Martin Luther King Jr and other civil rights activists in America are honoring the late civil rights leader on Monday by pushing for expanded federal voting rights legislation despite political opposition from Republicans.

Martin Luther King III, King’s eldest son, his wife, Arndrea Waters King, and their daughter, Yolanda Renee King, will lead a march on Monday morning across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington DC.

In a statement last week, King III spoke of his father, who would have turned 93 on Saturday, and said that the “stakes could not be higher to protect and expand” his father’s legacy of activism and racial justice.

“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 added.

The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, has announced that the Senate will take up voting legislation on Tuesday, though it is widely expected to fail.

In December, more than 800 faith leaders, led by King III and his wife, called on the Biden administration and Senate Democrats to pass voting rights legislation. “The communities we represent will continue to sound the alarm until these bills are passed. While we come from different faiths, we are united by our commitment to act in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us,” they said in an open letter.

Two Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have remained opposed to changing filibuster rules, which are necessary to move the bills through. The filibuster means most major legislation requires 60 votes to pass the Senate, not a simple majority, and the Senate is currently split 50-50 with the Democrats controlling a tie-breaking vote.

On Saturday, King III 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.

He went on to issue a “dire warning to the entire nation that our democracy stands on the bring without it”, adding: “The president said he’s tired of being quiet about voting rights. Well, we are tired of being patient.”

Passing voting rights legislation is seen as crucial in the face of a wave of Republican state legislation that is aimed at erecting barriers to voting that experts say is likely to suppress the votes of communities of color.

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