Thousands gather for annual March on for Voting Rights

Some 58 years after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the first March on Washington, his son, Martin Luther King III, and other activists and advocates participated in the March on for Voting Rights in the nation’s capital on Saturday. The subsequent rally in D.C. and other cities across the U.S. called on the federal government to protect and expand voting rights.

People gathered for the Washington march early Saturday, and a rally ran until the afternoon. An estimated 50,000 people attended, CBS Washington, D.C., affiliate WUSA reports.

Voting Rights March
Demonstrators hold signs during a march for voting rights, marking the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Washington.  Jose Luis Magana / AP

At the first March on Washington in 1963, an estimated 250,000 people gathered to demand civil rights. This year, the march – organized by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and 180 partner organizations – in part calls on the Senate to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. 

“We will not stop until we protect our right to vote,” Sharpton said Saturday. 

The act, which passed the House 219-212 on Wednesday, would reinstate a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The For The People Act, another voting rights measure that would overhaul the nation’s voting laws, is also pending in the Senate, albeit blocked by a Republican filibuster.

“It is wrong to restrict the rights of voters, and we must ensure that everyone has the right to vote, unencumbered. And voting rights should be expanded,” King said in an interview Friday with CBSN.

He pointed to states that have reduced absentee ballot availability, regulated ballot drop-off boxes and limited mail-in and early voting, among other measures. “These laws are making it harder to vote,” he said.

“We are a force of nature. This is a battlefield of morals and you are armed with the truth and the truth is a flame, you cannot extinguish,” King said Saturday at the march. “People have done it before, and we’ll do it again. We will demand federal voting rights until we have them. So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give out. You are the dream, and this is our moment to make it true.”

Martin Luther King III on voting rights fight… 10:05

His daughter, 13-year-old Yolanda Renee King, took the stage Saturday and echoed her father’s calls for legislative change. “I know activism works. I’ve seen it in my own family,” she said. 

“The torch is being passed to us and it’s time for our generation to wake up the world so we can stop talking about the dream and start living the dream,” she said. “We will be the generation that earns and wins our freedom once and for all.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also called for D.C. statehood to pass in the Senate, where Black residents outnumber any other group.

The March on for Voting Right’s website states, “state legislatures are pushing America back to the Jim Crow era with laws that reinstate systemic discrimination at the ballot box,” and cites 389 bills introduced this year in 48 states they argue “amount to shameful, outright voter suppression.” 

Other speakers at Saturday’s event included Drum Major Institute president Arndrea Waters King; Democratic Representatives Joyce Beatty, of Ohio, Terri Sewell, of Alabama, Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, both of Texas, and Mondaire Jones, of New York; NAACP president Derrick Johnson; and Philonise Floyd, activist and brother of George Floyd.