As President Obama and congressional leaders unveiled the statue of Rosa Parks at the Capitol Wednesday morning, a group of civil rights veterans gathered across the street to discuss the latest voting rights case to come before the Supreme Court.
“While the statue of Rosa Parks was being unveiled we were
listening to oral arguments in the Supreme Court to preserve section 5 of the Voting Rights Act,” Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader, told a small group of supporters and reporters.
King was joined by NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and Al Sharpton among others. Inside the court the justices heard arguments from an Alabama county that a key portion of the Voting Rights Act is no longer justified and the time had come for Southern states to be freed from special federal oversight.
Indeed, the court’s conservative justices strongly argued that this key portion of the Voting Rights Act is no longer justified and Congress had little justification for enforcing it.
As reported by The Post’s Robert Barnes, Justice Antonin Scalia was especially skeptical: “The act has come to be seen as a “racial entitlement,” he said. “I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity” no matter how much progress the states make in eliminating discrimination.
This view was the clarion call that brought out the old guard of the Civil Rights movement who were more than willing to connect the legacy of Rosa Parka to the Supreme Court case.
“Here we are fighting to defend the Voting Rights Act and the woman who in many ways set the country on fire in the early 1960’s is being honored across the street,” Jealous said.
Judith Brown, co-director of the Advancement Project, was also on the Court’s steps. Brown’s group has fought what they describe as voter suppression laws from Pennsylvania to Florida.
“We are celebrating the life of Rosa Parks and all that she gave to this country to be equal but we know that we are not there yet,” she said.
Rev Lennox Yearwood, President of the Hip Hop Caucus and former member of the duo Run DMC said it is past time to bring Parks beyond a history lesson. “We know from Rosa Parks and that generation that we can’t stop pushing. Section 5 is the keystone for Democracy.”
The public wasn’t allowed to see Parks statue until 2 p.m. One of the first people to arrive was 84-year-old Nia Kuumba, a long time DC activist who participated in marches with Parks and King.
“It means a lot to me,” said Kuumba as she stood from a wheel chair and stood in front of the statue. “Each generation must carry on its mission to social justice. The fight is not over.”
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