Thousands of people rallied and marched through Washington, D.C., in sweltering heat Saturday, advocating for voting rights and other social justice issues.
Martin Luther King III, speaking at the March On for Washington and Voting Rights rally on the National Mall, opened by calling back to another hot day 58 years ago — when his father Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
King urged the Senate to end the filibuster and decried efforts in GOP-led states to pass voting bills he says amount to oppression.
A crowd of people, some carrying Black Lives Matter flags and signs reading "Black voters matter," had marched to the Mall from McPherson Square, where District Mayor Muriel Bowser took the stage and stoked the crowd with a chant: “Free D.C.!”
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In Photos: Thousands Rally in DC for Voting Rights
She called for D.C. to be admitted to the union as the 51st state and for 750,000 residents to gain voting representation in Congress.
“You can’t talk about voter suppression without talking about the suppression of the Black and brown vote right here in Washington, D.C., because we do not have two senators," Bowser said.
Throngs of people stepped off and were making their way to the mall by 11 a.m. as D.C. police were closing streets near the National Mall.
Henry Lewis, brother of the late Rep. John Lewis, said activists are fighting for equal rights and voting rights.
“Some 58 years later, we’re still fighting for voting rights and equal rights,” Lewis said. “That kind of tells me that it’s not a weeklong fight, or a month, or a year, it’s a lifelong fight.”
There are six permitted rallies and protests taking place in the city, mostly along the National Mall, focused on issues including statehood for the District, gun violence and voting rights.
The Make Good Trouble rally is set to bring speakers to the Lincoln Memorial, the exact spot where King delivered his historic speech on this day in 1963.
A theme throughout the demonstrations is that King's dream of equal rights for all has been deferred. Organizers of the march say voting rights are under attack, citing controversial voting legislation in states with GOP majorities such as Texas, which this week advanced new voting restrictions.
Organizers of all of the events estimate a total of 75,000 people going to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument grounds, along the Mall at Seventh Street and on the Mall near the Capitol. But participants needed to be prepared for the weather and COVID-19.
“For the last year plus, we have worked with organizers of events to include in their event planning a COVID mitigation plan -- everything from requiring masks to social distancing,” said Mike Litterst of the National Park Service.