The marches coincide with the 58th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech at the National Mall. Organizers are pressing for the Democratic-led Congress and White House to enact bold, sweeping election reforms they say are needed in the face of voter suppression efforts in places like Texas and Florida.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, right, with Martin Luther King, III, left, walk during a march for voting rights, marking the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Washington. Hundreds of thousands of voting rights advocates rallied across the country Saturday to call for sweeping protections against a further erosion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
“We are marching to protect our power, to protect our voice, to protect our voting rights!,” tweeted Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader.
The “March On for Washington and Voting Rights” on the National Mall is organized by King’s group, the Drum Major Institute, the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other voting rights organizations.
They are calling for the passage of Democrats’ sweeping election reform plans – the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and making Washington D.C. the 51st state. All three of those initiatives passed the House this year, but face an uphill climb in the Senate where 60 votes are needed to overcome the filibuster and Democrats control just 50 seats.
WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 28: Voting rights activist Regina Cosio of Syracuse, New York, dresses as “Ms. Liberty” as she participates in a pre-march rally during a March On For Voting Rights event at McPherson Square August 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Activists gathered in Washington to mark the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March On Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and urged the Senate to pass voting rights legislations. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sharpton called out President Biden in a fiery headline speech at the march where he demanded a carve-out to the filibuster to pass voting rights.
“You said the night you won that Black America had your back and that you were going to have Black America’s back,” Sharpton said Saturday. “Well, Mr. President, they’re stabbing us in the back. In 49 states, they’ve got their knives out stabbing us in the back.”
Sharpton also made a special appeal to moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has opposed both the “For the People Act” legislation and getting rid of the filibuster. He said it was time for Biden to pressure Manchin.
“You need to pick up the phone and call Manchin and others and tell them if they can carve around the filibuster to confirm Supreme Court judges for President Trump, they can carve around the filibuster to bring voting rights for President Biden,” Sharpton said.
Senate Republicans in 2017 changed the rules under Trump to allow for Supreme Court justices to win confirmation by just a simple majority vote.
With the Capitol in the backdrop, Sharpton declared: “We’re going to stay on you until you get your carving knife out again.”
At the second rally at the Lincoln Memorial, organizers for the “Make Good Trouble Rally” were demanding much more than voting reforms, D.C. statehood and changing the Senate filibuster. Their calls for action also include progressive priorities of passing slavery reparations, raising the minimum wage to $15, canceling student debt, ending gun violence, legalizing undocumented immigrants and reversing climate change.
WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 28: Voting rights activists participate in a pre-march rally during a March On For Voting Rights event at McPherson Square August 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Activists gathered in Washington to mark the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March On Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and urged the Senate to pass voting rights legislations. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Chants in the crowd include “Black Lives Matter” and “Trans Lives Matter.”
Both rallies had a steady lineup of speakers throughout the day, including members of congress, family members of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and of George Floyd, who was killed by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.
Floyd’s death sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that summer and demands for racial justice, policing accountability and defunding the police.
Fox News’ Liz Friden contributed to this report.