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.
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 ButterfieldDeFazio becomes 19th House Democrat to retire Overnight Defense & National Security — Biden officials consider more Ukraine aid Biden, first lady have 'Friendsgiving' meal with military troops MORE (D-N.C.) and Reps. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassFor Democrats it should be about votes, not megaphones Proposed California maps put incumbents in jeopardy Bass calls 'Black pastors' comment during Arbery trial 'despicable' MORE (D-Calif.), Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyDemocratic caucus chairs call for Boebert committee assignment removal Warnock: 'True justice' is a Black man not having to worry about being killed while jogging Biden: Guilty verdicts in Arbery case 'not enough' MORE (D-Ohio), André Carson (D-Ind.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeButtigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey Biden, top officials spread out to promote infrastructure package Black Caucus eager to see BBB cross finish line in House MORE (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeNew Texas law limiting abortion takes effect Thursday Detroit voters back committee to study reparations Biden's policies have been disastrous to the US security, the economy 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.