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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 call for increased security after 'send her back' chants The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-N.C.) and Reps. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment 'Orange is the New Black' author to Congress: Reform 'patriarchal' criminal justice system Top Democrat: Mass incarceration in US is 'an embarrassment' MORE (D-Calif.), Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries MORE (D-Ohio), André Carson (D-Ind.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment New York bans discrimination against natural hair Democrats already jockeying for House leadership posts MORE (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeMueller testimony could be frustrating for both parties Judiciary chair demands Hope Hicks clarify closed-door testimony Houston pastor will offer sanctuary to immigrants willing to be US citizens 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.