Voting Rights Rallies Draw Thousands

Speakers put pressure on Biden as well as Congress for protections
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 28, 2021 4:45 PM CDT
Thousands Rally Across US for Voting Rights
The Rev. Al Sharpton, third from right in front, holds a banner with Martin Luther King III; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, second from right; and Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, right, on Saturday in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Thousands of people rallied across the US on Saturday to call for sweeping federal laws to wipe out election legislation advancing in some Republican-controlled states that could make it harder to cast a ballot. Many activists view the fight over voting rules as the civil rights issue of the era. But frustrations have mounted for months because two expansive election bills have stalled in the US Senate, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. The rallies Saturday were intended to increase pressure on Democrats to rewrite procedural rules that would let them muscle the legislation through without Republican votes, the AP reports.

But they were also aimed at coaxing President Biden to do more on the issue. "You said the night you won that Black America had your back, and that you were going to have Black Americans' backs,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said at a rally in Washington. "Well, Mr. President, they're stabbing us in the back." More than a thousand people turned out in sweltering heat on the National Mall on Saturday, the 58th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Martin Luther King III called on the Senate to scrap the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes for most legislation, including the voting bills, to advance. "Our country is backsliding to the unconscionable days of Jim Crow," King told the crowd.

Marches were also scheduled for dozens of other cities under the banner of "March On for Voting Rights," organized by Sharpton and King.

  • In Washington: Nearly a dozen state lawmakers who had tried to block changes to Texas' elections laws strolled onto the stage at the National Mall and were hailed as patriots. "The country is changing," said Ken Jones, 72, of Atlanta, who traveled to Washington with his wife, Paula. "The demographics are changing. And (Republicans) think that if they don’t get ahead of it and suppress the vote, they ain’t gonna have a say in it."
  • In Atlanta: Bernice King, a daughter of the late civil rights leader, led the march. In an interview, she called for "new levels of civil disobedience" to fight voting restrictions. "We're going to have to disrupt some things. We've got to disturb this country to the point that people who are still uninvolved and on the periphery to get involved in some fashion," King said.
  • In Phoenix: The Rev. Terry Mackey, pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, urged those attending a rally to honor the people who shed blood for voting rights. "I want you to stand up and fight," he said, "until every person in this state has the same voting rights as anybody else."
(Read more voting rights stories.)

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