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'My father was here in 1964 talking': Family of Martin Luther King Jr. marches for voting rights in honor of his birthday

The family of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. honored his birthday Saturday leading a rally to push for voting rights legislation.

PHOENIX — On what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 93rd birthday, his family took to the streets of Phoenix to push for voting rights legislation.

Hundreds of people marched with Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, and Yolanda Renee King during the Deliver for Voting Rights event on Saturday.

The focus of the gathering was to urge lawmakers in Washington to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act after 19 states, including Arizona, with predominately Republican legislatures, passed 34 laws in 2021 that change voting access. 

Activists have said those legislations make it harder to vote.

“This is the most important issue in my judgment that any of us could be addressing,” said King III after 12 News asked him why his family chose to be in Arizona for his father’s birthday.

“My father was here in 1964 talking. If the filibuster is not addressed, it will do great harm for the health of our nation, and it’s tragic that about over 60 years later we are still addressing the issue of voting. It should have been done,” King III said adding that the fight for voting rights is not over.

The King family emphasized their issue with Senator Kyrsten Sinema after she announced this week that she would not support eliminating the filibuster rules. 

Democrats need to kill the 60-vote requirement to pass voting rights legislation.

“Senator Sinema our future hinges on your decision and history will remember what you choose to [do],” said Yolanda Renee King, the first and only grandchild of Dr. King. “So, join me in demanding action for today, tomorrow and generations to come.”

The Senate is expected to debate on voting rights legislation on Tuesday.

Ahead of MLK day on Monday, King III called for legislators to not celebrate his father’s birthday or use any of his quotes this holiday weekend, but to instead help push legislation that will expand voter access to all Americans.

“I don’t want to see photo ops of elected officials going to black churches or sing with the choir if they are not willing to put voting rights over the filibuster,” King III said. “I certainly don’t want to hear any of our leaders say they support voting rights legislation while standing in its way.”

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