Black Democrats to gather in Ferguson

Black Democrats to gather in Ferguson
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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 ButterfieldWinners and losers in the border security deal Pelosi runs tight ship as more stormy waters await Lean job market for Dems on K Street MORE (D-N.C.) and Reps. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassWhitaker takes grilling from House lawmakers Congressional Black Caucus leaders call on Northam to resign Congressional Black Caucus faces tough decision on Harris, Booker MORE (D-Calif.), Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyDem rep says lower tax refunds are 'bad news' for the economy Dem rep says refunds are low because GOP tax policy doesn't benefit most Americans House Dems worry about lack of women of color in leadership MORE (D-Ohio), André Carson (D-Ind.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeCongressional Black Caucus faces tough decision on Harris, Booker Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to step down as CBC Foundation chair amid lawsuit Reporter says to expect Capitol Hill to take action on North Carolina's 9th District MORE (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Five takeaways from acting AG's fiery House hearing Democrat to acting AG: 'We are not joking here' 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.