Aug 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Civil rights leaders plan a day of voting rights marches

Martin Luther King III speaks, with Rev. Al Sharpton behind him, at a press conference at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on July 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Martin Luther King III and Rev. Al Sharpton. Photo: Cheriss May/Getty Images

Civil rights leaders from Washington to Phoenix are planning marches on Aug. 28 to push Congress to pass new protections around voting rights.

Why it matters: A landmark voting rights proposal remains stalled in the U.S. Senate, as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other moderates block efforts at filibuster reforms to advance a bill held up by Republicans.

Details: Martin Luther King III, Rev. Al Sharpton and Alejandro Chavez (the grandson of César Chavez) are spearheading peaceful, multiethnic marches in five cities in states where legislators recently passed voting restrictions.

  • Marches are scheduled in Atlanta, Houston, Miami and Phoenix to coincide with a national march in Washington.
  • More than two dozen "sister marches" also are being organized in other cities to support federal legislation to protect voting rights.
  • Advocates say the marches are necessary to put pressure on Congress to move on the legislation before the 2022 midterms, when voting restrictions in many states are set to begin.

What they're saying: "On the 28th, we're going to be in thousands upon thousands in the streets, [and] we got to keep pushing until America becomes the America it ought to be," King said during a press call on Thursday.

  • Sharpton said the marches will be peaceful, unlike the Jan. 6 protests by Trump supporters who would go on to attack the Capitol.
  • "People [who] are coming understand they're coming in the spirit of Dr. King, they're coming in the spirit of César Chavez. If you don't have that spirit, you're not invited down," Sharpton said.

Between the lines: Advocates feel they are in a race against time as Republican-controlled legislatures wait for the U.S. Census to release new data to draw new congressional districts.

  • Civil rights advocates want Congress to act quickly on new voting rights legislation to prevent Republicans from gerrymandering districts that would give the GOP a better shot at taking the U.S. House in 2022. That would stall voting rights proposals even longer.

The big picture: The Supreme Court last month upheld a pair of voting restrictions in Arizona, likely paving the way for new limitations across the country.

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