Martin Luther King Jr.’s family calls for ‘no celebration’ of MLK Day without action on voting rights legislation

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

The family of Martin Luther King Jr. is calling for “no celebration” of MLK Day without the passage of voting rights legislation, putting pressure on President Joe Biden and lawmakers to act on federal voting rights bills that have stalled in Congress.

Martin Luther King III, his wife Arndrea Waters King and their daughter Yolanda Renee King plan to mobilize activists on MLK weekend to push for Biden and Congress to apply the same efforts to federal voting rights bills that they used to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. They hope to send the message: “you delivered for bridges, now deliver for voting rights.”

“President Biden and Congress used their political muscle to deliver a vital infrastructure deal, and now we are calling on them to do the same to restore the very voting rights protections my father and countless other civil rights leaders bled to secure,” Martin Luther King III said in a statement Wednesday, adding that they “will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father’s dream for a more equal and just America.”

The Kings and local groups plan to rally supporters in Phoenix on January 15, the date of King’s birthday, “to restore and expand voting rights to honor Dr. King’s legacy.” On January 17, the federal holiday commemorating the civil rights leader’s birthday, the family and other activists will march across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC.

The actions will call on Biden and the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and “ensure the Jim Crow filibuster doesn’t stand in the way.”

The more than 80 groups participating in the MLK weekend events include The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Action Network and The National Urban League.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named in honor of the civil rights icon and late Georgia congressman, is aimed at fighting voter suppression and restoring enforcement provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Freedom to Vote Act would make it easier to register to vote, make Election Day a public holiday, ensure states have early voting for federal elections and allow all voters to request mail-in ballots, among other provisions.

Senate Republicans have blocked both Democratic-sponsored bills from advancing, leading progressive Democrats and activists to demand the Senate filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to advance most legislation, to be eliminated. Democrats, however, don’t have the votes to end the Senate filibuster rule.

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