Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s family urged the nation on Monday to continue the slain civil rights leader’s legacy through acts of service and “expanding voting rights.”
King’s descendants led a march in Washington, D.C. known as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day D.C. Peace Walk. In honor of the King holiday, over 100 national and local civil rights groups joined the gathering, with activists crossing the historic Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge.
[Watch the video below]
Braving cold temperatures, the group carried signs and chanted: “What do we want? Voting rights! When do we want it? Now!” They continued by saying, “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”
Dr. King’s eldest son Martin Luther King III spoke to the activists and said Americans need to do more than take the day off from work on the King holiday.
“My mother always said, the holiday should be a day on, not a day off,” he recalled. “Today we’re not here to celebrate, we’re here to be on. “
King then urged elected leaders to pass voting rights legislation to combat Republican-led restrictions that make it more difficult to cast a ballot.
“We’re here to call on President Biden and the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote, John R. Lewis Act and to warn that our democracy stands on the brink of serious trouble without these bills,” he said.
Echoing the urgent tone, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty, and King III’s wife Arndrea Waters King said the time for action is now.
“We’re calling for no celebration without legislation,” Arndrea Waters King said. “We can’t celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. without having the legislation, the cornerstone of his legacy.”
Democrats are urging the Senate to pass legislation that would protect voters from discrimination. In 2021, at least 19 states passed laws making it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
The House passed a bill last week that included two pieces of voting rights legislation — the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. However, the bill is still awaiting Senate approval.
Anita Bennett contributed to this report. Watch the video below of Monday’s peace march shot by photojournalist Ernest Champell.