Members of the King family are calling for the national holiday honoring their father, civil rights icon and “Drum Major for Justice” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be a day of protest actions aimed at pushing President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats to pass voting rights reform.
The hope of these activists is that the pressure they apply on such an embraced national holiday will finally get Biden and members of his party to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For The People Act (or its compromised version, the Freedom to Vote Act). President of the Drum Major Institute, Arndrea King, who is also the wife of Martin Luther King III, said MLK Day 2022 (Jan. 15) should be a day of “no celebration without legislation.”
As hundreds of bills are being proposed by Republican legislators across the country ahead of next year’s 2022 midterm elections, civil rights leaders have been tightening their grip on the White House and Hill lawmakers, particularly around 13 U.S. senators who had not yet indicated their full support of eliminating or amending the filibuster in order to pass legislation to protect voting rights for Black and minority voters, according to a Senate report card conducted by the NAACP.
“You show up for the bridges now show up for the people,” said Arndrea King said of President Biden. She, her husband and many others believe Biden needs to act with an urgency they say he has yet to show on this issue, and that the President can do so by ending the filibuster, which is the major roadblock holding up the passage of voting rights protections.
The day of action calls for demonstrators to gather in solidarity on various bridges across the nation.
“We are standing at bridges very clear with the historical reference to what bridges mean to our community,” she added, referring to infamous bridges like the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis was nearly killed by police in Selma, Alabama while protesting for the right to vote on what is known in history as Bloody Sunday.
“Obviously these 450 pieces of [voter suppression] legislation that have been proposed just since January of this year are literally ways to silence Black and Brown voices.”
After months of protests and meetings with civil rights leaders in Washington, President Biden signaled on Wednesday that he understands the urgency of passing voting rights legislation, even indicating that he would push his prized Build Back Better plan to 2022 in order to do it.
“If we can get the congressional voting rights done, we should do it. If we can’t, we’ve got to keep going. There’s nothing domestically more important than voting rights,” said Biden, according th the Washington Post.
The announcement for MLK Day comes as other civil rights leaders are holding meetings and calls with senators to pass voting rights legislation.
The NAACP has put 13 Democratic and Republican senators on notice for lack of action or urgency on the matter of voting rights. Derrick Johnson, head of the NAACP, told theGrio that those 13 senators received an incomplete because “they have not affirmatively stated that they will support voting rights protection even if it means a carve out or removal of the filibuster.”
According to Johnson, the report card has inspired two senators, Senators Gary Peters and Sheldon WhiteHouse, to change their position on removing the filibuster.
On the Senate floor on Tuesday, Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia delivered a renewed push for passage of voting rights reform in America with an impassioned speech that was praised by the Democratic base.
Sources in the civil rights community and inside the White House have said that one of the biggest hurdles in the Senate to passing any voting rights bill, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, is “softening” on the filibuster, which he had previously opposed eliminating or modifying.
A civil rights leader who did not want to be identified told theGrio, “Manchin does not want to be viewed as racist” as the face of the new voting rights movement, much like it was decades ago, is Black.