King's Son Calls for New Voting Laws

Holiday speeches include demands for legislation to counter voting curbs
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 17, 2022 5:32 PM CST
Calls to Action Mark MLK Day
People march down Auburn Avenue and past a mural of Rep. John Lewis during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march Monday in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

(Newser) – A day before the US Senate was expected to take up significant legislation on voting rights that is looking likely to fail, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s eldest son condemned federal lawmakers over their inaction. Speaking in Washington, DC, on Monday, Martin Luther King III said that though he was marking the federal holiday named for his father, he wasn't there to celebrate, the AP reports. He was there to call on Congress and President Biden to pass the sweeping legislation that would help reduce Republican-led voting restrictions passed in at least 19 states that make it more difficult to cast a ballot. “Our democracy stands on the brink of serious trouble without these bills,” he said.

Monday's holiday marked what would have been the 93rd birthday of the civil rights leader, who was 39 when he was assassinated in 1968 while helping sanitation workers strike for better pay and workplace safety in Memphis. Around the nation, events included marches in several cities, acts of service in King's name, and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. service at his Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where US Sen. Raphael Warnock is the senior pastor. Pews have been packed by politicians in past years, but given the pandemic, many gave either prerecorded or livestreamed remarks instead, including Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden said Americans must commit to the King's unfinished work, delivering jobs and justice and protecting "the sacred right to vote, a right from which all other rights flow." Democrats had hoped to vote on the legislation Monday, in a show of respect for the late civil rights leader as the issue gathered political steam late last year and peaked with a powerful blunt speech last week by Biden, who likened the Jan. 6, 2021, violence and election subversion of today with the civil rights struggles fought by King and others. But it comes too late for many civil rights leaders. Senate Republicans remain unified in opposition to the Democrats' voting bills. The vote has been pushed back to Tuesday.

(Read more Martin Luther King Jr. stories.)

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