WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the 59th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, leaders of the nation’s most prominent civil rights organizations today declared a state of emergency for democracy in the United States. Their proclamation comes in response to the concerted effort in states nationwide to disenfranchise voters, the likes of which we have not seen since the Jim Crow Era that motivated the 1963 March. The tactics are different, but the intent is the same: To maintain power by blocking access to the ballot box and undermining our democracy. Today, on the anniversary of the March and on the eve of the 2022 midterm election, civil rights leaders issued a call to action to guarantee democracy and ensure the state of our union is strong.
They called for federal officials to use existing laws to protect the right to vote and guarantee the safety of poll workers; state officials to expand – not pare back – access to the ballot box, especially for disenfranchised communities; and all Americans to turn out to vote in November and make sure at least two people they know do the same.
The call came at a virtual press conference on Sunday, attended by leaders of the National Urban League, National Action Network (NAN), the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). A recording of Sunday’s press conference can be found by clicking here (Passcode: 1Wr1#B*8).
“Each year, the anniversary of the March on Washington is an opportunity to reflect on the nation’s progress toward Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. This year, however, we reflect on how much of that progress has been eroded by the vicious backlash against racial justice and democratic principles that now engulfs us. The ongoing campaign to obliterate of the “one-person, one-vote” principle is an astonishing reversal of a two-century moral arc that has bent, if slowly and unevenly, toward universal suffrage. But the path forward is clear. When we gather to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the March next year, it will be as brothers and sisters whose right to vote and participate as full citizens is not is not compromised by color or creed, in the oasis of freedom and justice of Dr. King’s dream,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.
“Fifty-nine years ago today, our predecessors gathered on the Lincoln Memorial in recognition that he saved the union, and in doing so promised us all equal rights. That promise remains unfulfilled. Our union is still at risk, in 2022, as states are systemically and relentlessly chipping away at the right to vote. We are assembling today in that same spirit of 1963, to preserve the union and guarantee the right to vote for all Americans. It is our mission to ensure every American is safe at the polls and can exercise their right to their fullest ability,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder and President of NAN.
“In 1963, the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Justice’ was a collective response by civil rights groups in America to the racism, hatred and economic repression that had long-plagued and terrorized Black people for decades. Today, we find our rights and freedoms are once again under attack and our democracy is under threat—thanks to the rolling back of our rights by the U. S. Supreme Court, including voting rights & reproductive rights; the passage of repressive voter suppression laws targeting black and brown people being enacted by over 19 states over the past two years; the historic rise in racism and white nationalism across the country; and attack on our democracy and the ‘rule of law’ by white nationalists and insurrectionists. Today, I join in solidarity with my civil rights colleagues to lift up and celebrate the 59th Anniversary of the March on Washington—in a collective call to action by continuing the fight for our rights, freedoms, justice, safety and to save our democracy from peril for future generations to live out their dreams,” said Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.“