About 60 civil rights marchers on a two-month "Pilgrimage to Washington" through the Deep South in support of extending the 1965 Voting Rights Act plan to culminate their journey today as they walk across the 14th Street bridge into the nation's capital.
Led by the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the marchers will go to the Ellipse near the White House and establish "Resurrection City, D.C. II"--a symbolic re-creation of the plywood-and-plastic shanty town established near the Lincoln Memorial by SCLC's Poor People's Campaign in 1968.
Unlike the original Resurrection City, no one will live in the tents and other structures on the Ellipse. Instead, say SCLC organizers, the tents will serve as information centers and symbols of the worsening plight of blacks and poor people under the Reagan adminstration. Resurrection City, D.C. II officially opens Saturday and will remain for at least three weeks.
"We're excited," Lowery said yesterday. " . . . We're about to cross one more river--the Potomac--and march into the Nation's Capitol. This is a sacred mission. We see the black community as a moral thermostat. And we're challenging the nation to put black interests and needs back on the agenda."
The marchers are scheduled to assemble at St. John's Baptist Church on Columbia Pike in Arlington this morning and walk down Rte. 244 to I-395 and across the 14th Street Bridge.
On a meandering path to Washington that started April 19 in Tuskegee, Ala., the demonstrators passed through towns in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, urging local residents to register to vote and demonstrating for passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Congress, after several days of debate, recently voted to extend the landmark civil rights legislation and President Reagan is expected to sign it soon.
Lowery said SCLC is pleased with the congressional action, but added that other problems, such as inadequate public housing, cuts in the food stamp program and the need for a nuclear weapons freeze, remain.
Another group protesting housing policies of the Department of Housing and Urban Development also plans to pitch tents on the Ellipse today. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now ACORN , which says it has helped squatters claim possession of about 250 abandoned houses across the country, plans to remain on the Ellipse through Friday.