Martin Luther King III arrested, later released after voting rights protest outside White House

EXCLUSIVE: TheGrio was on the ground in Washington while more than 60 others were also arrested with King. 

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Martin Luther King III, son of the late civil rights activist and icon Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was arrested and released Wednesday by U.S. Park Police after peacefully protesting for voting rights in front of the White House. TheGrio was on the ground in Washington while more than 60 others were also arrested with King. 

Martin Luther King III
Martin Luther King III leads voting rights protest outside the White House on Nov. 3, 2021. (Photo: theGrio/Jessica Floyd)

Some of the protesters were under the age of 18 and were taken away by police, however, they were not processed. The granddaughter of Dr. King Jr., Yolanda King, joined her parents on the front lines of the march but due to her age was not arrested. 

“My father, John Lewis and so many others opened doors so that we’d have the right to vote. And tragically, our states are making it very difficult for people to vote,” Martin Luther King III exclusively told theGrio

TheGrio asked King if there are concerns about new state leadership in Virginia, a state that just a few months ago became the first in the south to pass a voting rights protection package in response to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v. Holder that significantly weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King believes it is a possibility that the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, signed into law earlier this year by then-Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, will be “decimated just as it has been done at the federal level when the Supreme Court did it in 2013.”

The Shelby v. Holder ruling and the dismantling of voting rights protections in the United States has prompted Congress to hold public hearings on the issue and work to pass legislation to enact new voting rights protections and reform across the country. Without action, states are free to impose their own laws without federal pre-clearance, which previously allowed the U.S. Department of Justice to review and approve any changes to voting regulations in states that have a legacy of voting discrimination. 

Voting Access Bill Sparks Controversy In Georgia
(Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

As Democrats collect their thoughts on losing the Virginia governor’s mansion, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing for the Senate to vote on its version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on Wednesday. It is not expected to pass as the minority group of Republican senators are expected to filibuster the issue to overrule the majority. 

President Joe Biden said he would deal with the filibuster issue after his physical and human infrastructure bills are signed into law. But the passage of his Build Back Better Framework package has yet to happen as Democrats continue to wrangle over what to shave from the plan to fit the new compromised $1.75 trillion price tag. 

“The Senate needs to pass the cloture rule in order to continue debate, OTHERWISE, the FILIBUSTER MUST BE ELIMINATED, at this time,” Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas tweeted on Wednesday in support of the voting rights demonstration happening at the White House. “How long must we wait for the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Bill? How long must we wait for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act? How long must we wait for the HR 40 The Commission to study slavery and develop reparations proposals?”

She added, “I stand with you, Martin Luther King III and all of the protesters. PASS THE VOTING RIGHTS BILL NOW!” 

Cornell Belcher, Democratic pollster for Brilliant Corners said voting rights is “the number one issue for Black women.” The face of the fight for voting rights over the decades has been Black America, however, restrictive voting laws impact everyone from all races and genders. 

Arndrea Waters King, wife of Martin Luther King III, highlighted the important role Black women play in maintaining America’s democracy. 

“Black women will continue to show up. We will continue to show our power,” Waters King told theGrio. “But now it’s time for America to show up for us.”

Voting Rights Protest outside White House
Demonstrators protest for voting rights outside White House on Nov. 3, 2021. (Photo: theGrio/Jessica Floyd)

There are several press conferences on Wednesday hosted by civil rights giants to address the threat on voting rights. Leaders of traditional civil rights organizations including the NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Urban League and National Action Network will host one call, and then Melanie Campbell of the Black Women’s roundtable will host another with SEIU. 

Alongside the fight for voting rights, Rev. Mark Thompson is drawing a comparison between the struggle on Howard University’s campus for better housing conditions and the push for voting rights protections from federal elected officials. 

“[Howard University’s] president’s office is not willing to sign a memorandum of agreement or understanding to meet the students’ demands, and he has one demand — that they leave the building. He wants them to leave the building for free, unconditionally on a handshake,” Thompson told theGrio.

“Joe Biden, we voted for him on a handshake, right? And so where is our memorandum of agreement as a Black electorate to get some of the things that we should have, that we should need and that we demand? We need real legislation.”

theGrio’s Jessica Floyd contributed to this report.

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