WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, tens of thousands of people in Washington D.C., Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami and 95 other cities nationwide peacefully took to the streets and engaged in protests to urge Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation to stop the hundreds of voter suppression laws being introduced across the country. A nationwide effort, the March On for Voting Rights was organized by the Drum Major Institute, March On, the National Action Network, Future Coalition, SEIU, and 51 for 51, with support from nearly 200 partner organizations.
With the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop, speakers including Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, Rev. Al Sharpton, Yolanda Renee King, Reps. Joyce Beatty, Terri Sewell, Mondaire Jones, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Al Green, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowswer and local youth leaders Jamal Holtz and Demi Stratmon took the stage in Washington D.C. on the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March On Washington to demand that the Senate pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the For The People Act and the Washington D.C. Admissions Act.
At flagship marches in Atlanta, Miami, and Phoenix in addition to over 95 sister marches and activations, activists turned out for rallies, concerts and votercades. In Atlanta, outside The King Center, speakers including Congresswoman Nikema Williams, Dr. Bernice King, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley and more took the stage, followed by a performance by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, who grew up in Atlanta and still calls the city home. Miami hosted a votercade and rally with thousands turning out. Phoenix hosted a celebratory experience at Pilgrim Baptist Church, with Alejandro Chavez, grandson of legendary organizer César Chávez. Watch the stream of the March and speeches below.
Key quotes from March speakers:
Drum Major Institute Chairman Martin Luther King III: “Our country is backsliding to the unconscionable days of Jim Crow, and some of our senators are saying, well we can’t overcome the filibuster. Then I say to you today: get rid of the filibuster! That is the monument to slavery we must dismantle. That is the monument to white supremacy we must tear down.” “You let more than 700,000 mostly Black and brown people in this city of Washington, DC vote for president but don’t give them voting representation in Congress. Seems to me that is taxation without representation. That has to change. Washington must become the 51st state. “This is a moment of profound danger. In a matter of weeks, state legislatures will redraw the lines of congressional districts, and they will gerrymander us into further oppression if we don’t act and, through the power of public outrage, force them to act. But we can do this because when people like you—Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, and white—come together to do what is right, 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. People have done it before, and will do it again. We will demand federal voting rights until we have them. So don’t give up, don’t give in and don’t give out. You are the dream, and this is our moment to make it true. Some may ask how long will it be. Well, I don’t know. I remember my father saying, “How long? Not long.” Why? “Because the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
National Action Network President and Founder Rev. Al Sharpton: “I come to Washington recounting what Martin just gave to history to tell you that the same doggish ways that they had in the 1860s, the same doggish ways they had in 1924, the same dogfish ways they had in 1942, the same doggish ways we had to fight Strom Thurman and had to fight Talmidge. We in Washington, you may have on a suit and tie, but we fighting the same dogs. We know who you are, because our older brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers dealt with you, and we will deal with you the same way. “Stand up and fight back. Don’t you get tired, don’t you get weary. We can win.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18): “I am a student of the movement. I’m a card carrying member. But you know what, the question is, are you just a member of the movement, or are you prepared to drive that movement?” “I got arrested because I believe that voting rights is determining what we are all about. Yes, I’m a legislator. But the question is, do I legislate with courage, or do I step backwards?”
Drum Major Institute President Arndrea Waters King: “We are in the middle of an awakening in this country, and I know that you feel it. The roar of the divine feminine will no longer be ignored. The magic of Black girls can no longer be overlooked and the power of Black women can no longer be underestimated. We have shown up for this country time and time again, even when it has not shown up for us.” “For change to come, we must bend that arc of the moral universe toward justice.” “Today is only the beginning. So tomorrow morning, when that flame in your heart wakes you up and propels you out of bed, pick up the phone, call your Senators and representatives. Spread the word on every platform you have. Demand passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the For the People Act, and the Washington DC Admissions Act, whatever it takes. Tell them to stand for laws that lift us up, not limit us, and to make brotherhood and sisterhood not empty utterances but the first order of business on all legislative agendas. And then wake up the next day and do it again until we have created so much power that the forces of injustice cannot stand.”
51 for 51 Lead Organizer Demi Stratmon: “Without Senators to vote and represent us, our voices are missing from critical policy fights, from material health, gun violence prevention, reproductive justice, economic justice, and the list goes on. But we will not be locked out of democracy any longer.” “When DC becomes a state—when, not if—it will be the first state to have a plurality of Black residents. Make no mistake, we are excluded from democracy here in DC today not by accident, but because some people fear Black political power. Senators on both sides of the aisle lack the courage of conviction to stand up for what is right, and leaving 700,000 mostly Black and Brown residents without a vote in Congress is racist. It is the continuation of a long, shameful history.”
51 for 51 Lead Advocate Jamal Holtz: “To stand before the capital, a so-called beacon of democracy, that was built on the back of enslaved people, to deny Black and Brown residents their right to vote, that’s at its heart disenfranchisement.” “If we’re going to live up to the ideals of democracy, we must correct this centuries-long stain on our country. If we’re going to preach democracy then we must practice it.”
Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY-17): “If we fail to act in this moment we are on a path by which democracy dies in darkness.” “We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to achieve the long held promise of a permanent, multiracial democracy.” “So I am here to tell you power concedes nothing without a demand. I am here to tell you that is why you are here today, to demand that president Biden call on the Senate to abolish the filibuster and pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We know the future we want for ourselves, our families, our country, and we aren’t going away until that future is won.”
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL-07): “It’s not ok to say that you stand on the shoulders of these amazing heroes and heroines, and not do your own work. So here we are, marching to do our own work.” “Now, more than ever, we need your mobilization, we need you to participate, and we need you to call those senators and tell them they must pass H.R. 4 now.” “We’re doing our work for H.R.4, but we need help. We need to make sure that the Senators know that we will not stand by idly and let them just filibuster H.R.4. Too much is at stake. Federal protections must be restored and the only way we can do that is pass H.R.4.”
Rep. Al Green (D-TX-09): “We have an obligation to pass legislation that will give the District of Columbia statehood…DC has a higher per capita tax rate than most states in the country. DC has been trying and has been denied statehood for centuries. Friends, it is about more than taxation without representation. It’s about overtaxation because of underrepresentation in the Senate of the United States of America.”
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH-03): “We ask you to stand with us, we ask you to fight with us, we ask you to make justice for us. Because we know that there are so many injustices. We know far too many of our little Black boys and girls are being killed. We know far too many of our boys and girls are in the system and they have unequal sentencing and unequal treatment. We know that if we do not stand up for voting rights, if we do not stand up and get people registered to vote, that we can’t make a difference.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson: “So as we leave here and prepare for the next phase of this fight, we don’t want to hear any excuse about Joe Manchin and Senator Sinema. I want to know if all 50 members in the Senate who depend on Black votes are ready to protect our vote.” “My question to all of you here and listening, are you ready to stand to protect the right to vote?”
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser: “DC residents have been in this fight for nearly 220 years and we will not quit until we achieve full democracy. I for one refuse to give up my birthright. I refuse to let 100 people in the Senate off the hook and not perfect our democracy by making DC the 51st state. Too many Americans don’t know our plight. We are Americans. We pay taxes. We pay, actually, more taxes than 22 states, and more per capita than any one of them. We send our people to war to fight for our democracy.” “We know that DC statehood is constitutional. And we know that just like all the voter suppression we’re talking about today, the refusal to grant DC statehood is a legacy of slavery and Jim Crow America. And we refuse to let it stand. Above everything else, we know that DC statehood is the only way to right an historic wrong.”
Yolanda Renee King: “I march because I’m tired of elected officials putting themselves first. To be honest, I am disgusted by the behavior of many of our leaders. In this country, it’s easier to register to own a gun than it is to register to vote. Think about that.”
“As a 13-year-old, here’s my question to elected officials: Why are you in office? Are you here for power or are you here to use your platform for good? If you say you’re here for good, prove it. Pass the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and the Washington DC Admissions Act. These bills cannot wait, and we are being silenced. And here’s my message to other teens: get loud!” “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.”
Andi Pringle, Political and Strategic Campaigns Director of March On: “Our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents fought this fight because they didn’t want us to—but the fight is here. and we cannot let their sacrifice become a footnote in history. The fight is on our doorstep, and we must meet it with the same urgency and courage that they did. Right now, people in 95 cities are marching with you. Think about that! All over America, people are marching for voting rights. People in places like Chicago and Sacramento and Washington State are marching for Georgia, because they believe in you. So I am telling you, we have the numbers. We have the tools. We have history on our side. And this time, we will win.”
March On Board Chair Jaquie Algee: “My grandmother was born in 1915, and it wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 that she was able to vote because state laws like the ones they’re passing today kept her from the ballot box. I went with her that day as a young girl, and I held her hand as tears streamed down her face while she cast her ballot. My great-grandparents marched with Dr. King in Mississippi. They were spat on, beaten and jailed for the rights that many have taken for granted. On every election day, my mother drove her neighbors and family members to their polling places. And I am here to tell you that I hear their voices in my ears every day of my life, and they are telling me to run—not away from this country, but into the fight. To run into the fight so that everything they fought for is not lost.”
About March On For Voting Rights March On for Washington and Voting Rights is a mass mobilization to demand that elected officials protect democracy, denounce voter suppression, make D.C. a state, and ensure fair, easy access to the vote. On August 28, the 58th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, we will march on cities across America to demand that the vision of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech be deferred no longer. That means passing the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Washington, D.C. Admission Act. The march is led by Drum Major Institute, March On, the National Action Network, Future Coalition, SEIU, and 51 for 51, and is joined by over 140 other partners. The march is funded through the #ForJohn campaign, a grassroots effort co-founded by Martin Luther King III and Arndrea King to fight voter suppression.
About March On March On is a political organization composed of women-led political activist groups that grew out of the women’s marches of January 21, 2017. They have come together as a united force to take concrete, coordinated actions at the federal, state and local levels to impact elections and move the country in a progressive direction. For more information, visit wearemarchon.org.
About the Drum Major Institute The Drum Major Institute advances the core mission of our founder, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to assure that the arc of the moral universe continues to bend toward justice. Dr. King’s legacy and voice are as important today as they were upon our founding 60 years ago. To meet this historic moment, we are lending our unique ability to facilitate dialogue and collaboration to support the countless courageous acts of individuals and organizations across the nation and the world to ensure that the vital conversations that are now starting will sustain and advance far beyond this moment in time—and lead to tangible lasting outcomes. We encourage all people to embrace their role in the King legacy, take action in their community and strive to build the Beloved Community. Learn more at drummajorinst.org.
About SEIUService Employees International Union is an organization of 2 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide, and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. For more information, visit https://www.seiu.org/.
About National Action Network National Action Network is one of the leading civil rights organizations in the Nation with chapters throughout the entire United States. Founded in 1991 by Reverend Al Sharpton, NAN works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda that includes the fight for one standard of justice, decency and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, citizenship, criminal record, economic status, gender, gender expression, or sexuality. For more information, visit https://nationalactionnetwork.net/
About Future Coalition Founded by youth activists for youth activists, Future Coalition is a network and community for youth-led organizations and Gen Z and young millennial leaders from across the country that came into being as a project of March On in the fall of 2018. Future Coalition works collaboratively to provide young people with the resources, tools, and support they need to create the change they want to see in their communities and in this country. For more information, visit futurecoalition.org.
About 51 for 5151 for 51 is a coalition of D.C.-based and national groups committed to equal representation for the over 700,000 D.C. residents who remain locked out of our democracy. The coalition of 20 progressive groups believe American citizens living in the District deserve a voice in Congress and control over their own local laws. Already, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Senators Warren, Markey, Gillibrand and Hickenlooper have endorsed 51 for 51’s proposed path to statehood.