D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) called on District residents to hit the streets this weekend to support District voting rights and boost a march by the Rev. Al Sharpton to press for “jobs and justice.”
Speaking at a press conference about this weekend’s official unveiling of the Martin Luther King Memorial on the Mall, Gray announced a “D.C. Full Democracy Freedom Rally and March” Saturday morning.
The event begins at 9:30 a.m. on Freedom Plaza, which is currently being occupied by anti-war and anti-Wall Street demonstrators. The protestors have agreed to temporarily leave part of the square to make room for the rally, city officials said.
After a rally, co-sponsored by D.C. Vote, residents will march toward the Sylvan Theater at 15th and Independence Avenue Southwest. There, the voting rights group will merge with Sharpton’s march and proceed to the King Memorial.
“Dr. King himself called for Congress to bring full democracy to the residents of the District of Columbia,” Gray said. “This rally and march will continue his fight for justice.”
Consumer activist Ralph Nader, a longtime advocate for D.C. statehood, joined Gray at the press conference. Nader called on city residents to step up their activism, even suggesting it was time to implement “a limited general strike” to get the attention of Congress and President Obama.
Nader added there should be an Occupy D.C. arm focused on voting rights, similar to the OccupyDC group affiliated with Occupy Wall Street movement.
The march by Sharpton’s National Action Network March for Jobs and Justice will focus on building support for President Obama’s jobs proposal pending before Congress.
“From Wall Street to Washington, Americans are tired of the economic despair and joblessness,” Sharpton said in a statement.
The official unveiling of the King Memorial, postponed due to Hurricane Irene, will take place Sunday. Obama, members of the King Family and celebrities are expected to participate.
When the ceremony was expected to take place in August, city officials were bracing for up to 250,000 people to descend on the city from around the country. Now, only 50,000 people are expected, but officials warn there could be more if the weather is nice.
To prepare, METRO is suspending all weekend track work and plans to add additional trains. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is also adding additional officers on the street.