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 ButterfieldDemocrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps North Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps Black leaders say African American support in presidential primary is fluid MORE (D-N.C.) and Reps. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassThe US treats asylum seekers so poorly Lawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border Preventative measures are needed in child welfare policy, data shows MORE (D-Calif.), Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyProgressive group unveils first slate of 2020 congressional endorsements Action needed to protect women in the workforce Stars turn out as Chappelle receives Mark Twain Prize MORE (D-Ohio), André Carson (D-Ind.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeBooker unveils legislation for federal bill to ban discrimination against natural hair Kamala Harris aide says in resignation letter: 'I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly' Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions MORE (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeOvernight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death 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.