Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in Washington, Houston, Atlanta and dozens of other American cities to defend the right to vote of minorities, threatened according to the organizers by laws passed this year in several conservative states.
The date of these gatherings was not chosen at random: it was August 28, 1963 that in front of nearly 250,000 people, Martin Luther King had launched “I have a dream”, in a speech that has become a reference for the struggle for civil rights.
Promising to carry with the protesters “the torch of justice that my father and so many others carried” 58 years ago, Martin Luther King III called on the crowd on Saturday to “not give up” the fight for equality facing the ballot box.
“The dream is you who wear it and the time has come to make it come true,” he told the demonstrators, who were fewer in number than in 1963.
20,000 people in Washington
About 20,000 people gathered in Washington, according to organizers. The police did not provide a figure.
“Voting rights for all”, “the vote is sacred”: waving signs, the demonstrators marched in the humid heat of the federal capital from the surroundings of the White House to the feet of the Capitol, seat of the American Congress.
“I feel like we have gone back in time,” said a 25-year-old student who traveled from Colorado to participate in the protest with her father. It is necessary “that everyone contributes to try to cancel these restrictive electoral laws”, adds the latter.
Discrimination despite the Voting Rights Act of 1965
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which prohibited discriminatory electoral measures. But states have continued, with often very technical measures, to limit access to the ballot boxes for minorities, especially Afro-Americans, who vote mainly Democrats.
This process has recently accelerated in Republican states against the backdrop of unproven accusations of massive electoral fraud hammered out by Donald Trump since the November 2020 presidential election.
Since January, at least 18 states have passed 30 restrictive election laws and dozens more are under review, according to think tank Brennan Center for Justice.
From the obligation to have an address to register on the electoral rolls to the ban on voting on sites accessible without leaving your car, the provisions vary from state to state.
“Racist, anti-democratic laws”
“Racist, anti-democratic laws,” denounce the organizers of Saturday’s protests, who demand that Congress react.
The House of Representatives, with a Democratic majority, adopted two electoral reform projects this year aimed in particular at limiting these restrictions, but these texts currently have no chance of overcoming a Republican blockade expected in the Senate.
afp / fgn