Black Democrats to gather in Ferguson

Black Democrats to gather in Ferguson
© Getty Images

Black Democrats will celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend by gathering near Ferguson, Mo., where a black teenager was killed by a white police officer last summer.

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The lawmakers, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), say they'll use the holiday to call on voters to get more involved in social justice issues while urging Congress to pass legislation overhauling the criminal justice system.

Those issues have gained national prominence since August, when Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, after a confrontation on the streets of Ferguson, a largely black suburb of St. Louis. The tragedy led to weeks of violent protests in Ferguson and launched a national debate on a range of race-based issues, including police brutality, profiling, youth development and criminal justice reform.

Revelations of a similar incident on Staten Island, N.Y., in July — when a white police officer's chokehold during an arrest led to the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man — have only fueled that debate.

Since those episodes, Democrats in both chambers have called for broad reforms, including efforts to combat racial profiling, tighten the nation's gun laws and scale back a Pentagon program supplying local police with excess military equipment.

As part of that effort, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) this week urged President Obama, as part of his annual budget, to include funding for a program requiring law enforcers to wear cameras, a concept Cleaver had pushed unsuccessfully as legislation last year.

"The tragic events that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri should not be repeated,” Cleaver, former head of the CBC, said this week. “We can work to do this by giving our local police officers the best tools and training available to protect and serve our communities."

Cleaver will be among the lawmakers gathering near Ferguson on Sunday to commemorate the King holiday.

Other lawmakers expected to attend include CBC Chairman G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth Butterfield'Diamond & Silk' offer chance for bipartisan push back on social media censorship Live coverage: Zuckerberg faces second day on Capitol Hill Senate passes bill to end shutdown, sending it to House MORE (D-N.C.) and Reps. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassUS lawmakers celebrate the royal wedding Dem rep on Trump tweet: ‘An embarrassment on the international stage’ Sunday Shows preview: Debate over memo takes spotlight in Washington MORE (D-Calif.), Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattySeven primaries to watch on Tuesday Election analyst sees Dem chances improving in Ohio special election Dems look to Ohio for another election upset MORE (D-Ohio), André Carson (D-Ind.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeFarm bill abandons endangered wildlife House rejects effort to condemn lawmaker for demanding 'Dreamer' arrests Hispanic Dems seek vote to condemn GOP lawmaker for demanding arrests of 'Dreamers' MORE (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeThis week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure Dem lawmaker spars with own party over prison reform A select committee needed to investigate Trump’s possible Emoluments Clause violations MORE (D-Texas), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Lacy Clay (D), who represents Ferguson.

Sunday's event will take place at Wellspring United Methodist Church in Florissant, Mo., which neighbors Ferguson.