Civil Rights Leaders, Grassroots Activists Plan to Walk, Run and Bike From Harpers Ferry, W.Va. to U.S. Capitol
WASHINGTON, D.C. – To keep up the drumbeat of support for legislation to protect the freedom to vote, civil rights leaders and grassroots activists will trace our nation’s historic struggle for freedom in a three-day, 70-mile relay starting on Oct. 21 in West Virginia and culminating on Oct. 23 with a rally with Martin Luther King III on the National Mall.
Public Citizen, the League of Conservation Voters, Black Voters Matter, DC Vote, League of Women Voters, the Drum Majors for Change, Declaration for American Democracy and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda are convening the rally and relay, which will kick off with a caravan on Oct. 20 in Charleston, W.Va., then continue on to Harpers Ferry, travel to Point of Rocks, Maryland, make its way to Glen Echo Park in Maryland and finish in a rally on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Taft Carillon near the U.S. Capitol. In addition, groups from Georgia and New York are expected to join the events.
Martin Luther King III, chairman of the board of the Drum Majors for Change: “My father said that he might not make it to the mountain top, but he felt confident that generations would come after him to carry forward the torch of freedom. That is our charge: to keep up the struggle, to keep marching and speaking out, always bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Our country has fallen so far, as extremist politicians erect one barrier after another to voting. That’s why we are calling on the Senate to do what it must to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, to shore up the Voting Rights Act and expand statehood to the District of Columbia. This moment demands nothing less.”
Cliff Albright, executive director and co-founder of Black Voters Matter: “Voters turned out in record numbers in 2020, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, to demand strong and effective leadership in Washington. But as lawmakers across the U.S. continue to pass anti-voting laws, President Biden and the U.S. Senate are failing to act. The Freedom to Vote Act provides critical voter protections that would ensure free and fair ballot access nationwide, particularly in communities of color that are disproportionately targeted by voter suppression. We are joining our partners on this historic relay to demand that Biden and Senate Democrats pass this bill now.”
Gene Karpinski, president of League of Conservation Voters: “A healthy environment and a healthy democracy are inextricably linked. It is no coincidence that the communities most affected by climate change and pollution are the same Black, Brown, Asian-American, Native, disabled, and immigrant communities that are targeted by voter suppression. We’re proud to join fellow conveners and marchers from West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia to call on Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and D.C. Statehood, and fight for a healthy, functioning democracy where all people can participate freely and equitably.”
Rev. Ronald English of Charleston, W.Va.: “From across West Virginia, everyday people, Black and white, young and old, are coming together to make a joyful noise in celebration of what makes our country great: the freedom to vote. We are marching and biking and riding from Charleston to the site of the very first meeting of the Niagara Movement in Harpers Ferry and then passing the baton to our brothers and sisters in Maryland. This is what ordinary Americans have done throughout our nation’s history to ensure more Americans have our right to vote honored and that every eligible American is able to cast our vote and have it be counted. As West Virginians, we are blessed to be part of that history and tradition as we journey from our state capital to the nation’s capital.”
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen: “Carried from West Virginia and across the country, the message to the nation’s legislators is simple: Every American’s freedom to vote must be protected. This is a crossroads moment for American democracy: either we move to guarantee and strengthen the foundations of our democracy, or we succumb to accelerating democratic erosion, racist voter suppression and fascist and conspiracist forces. Congress must pass the Freedom to Vote Act without delay.”
Ryan Frankenberry, state director of WV Working Families Party: “West Virginia was created during the Civil War, with our state motto, ‘Montani Semper Liberi’ – Mountaineers Are Always Free. Mountaineers are proud of our heritage of protecting our freedom, and this historic moment in time is no different. We are proud to bring our voices from across the Mountain State to amplify our calls to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and protect our democracy.”
Bo Shuff, executive director of DC Vote: “For more than 200 years the residents of Washington, D.C., have been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights, while ours have been repeatedly denied. We march from the Glen Echo Park, integrated 61 years ago by students from Howard University, to the Capitol of the nation to remind America that without D.C. statehood the work towards full representation will not be complete. The people of D.C. must be fully included in our democracy.”
Jana Morgan, director of the Declaration for American Democracy: “The Declaration for American Democracy coalition is proud to mobilize with a robust group of advocates and civil rights leaders traveling from West Virginia to Washington, D.C., to demand our freedom to vote. As anti-voter bills and racial gerrymandering continue to threaten equal access to the ballot box across the country, swift action from Senate Democrats and President Biden is more important now than ever. We are rising up to make our voices heard to ensure Congress delivers on their promise to create a democracy that works for all of us.”
Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda: “Before he passed away Representative John Lewis warned us that ‘time is of the essence’ in protecting our democracy. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. We will not back down, and we will continue the fight for voting rights until the ballot is equally and easily accessible to all voters. President Biden and members of Congress, especially the Senate, must recognize the urgency of this moment and pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And a loophole like the filibuster should not allow anyone to withhold the sacred right to vote. This is the message that we are coming from Georgia to share. And we could not be prouder to be a part of this movement.”
Nancy Soreng, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland: “There is nothing more essential to the mission of the League of Women Voters than guaranteeing the freedom to vote. We are proud to be supporting this event to highlight how urgent it is to enfranchise citizens who live in the District of Columbia and enact national standards protecting the freedom to vote equally for all Americans.”
For more information please visit FreedomToVoteRelay.org.