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Hundreds march in Dayton in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Dayton community members marched through freezing temperatures and slushed roads to honor the late civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.
Alejandro Figueroa
Dayton community members marched through freezing temperatures and slushed roads to honor the late civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.

Many roads remained unplowed after Sunday’s snow. Despite the freezing temperatures, hundreds of Dayton community members and leaders still marched across the Peace Bridge on West Third Street to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Crowds of people held portraits of King and signs with quotes from the late civil rights activist.

City Commissioner Shenise Turner- Sloss was among those who marched. She said it’s worth remembering how early civil rights leaders fought for civil liberties. She added that while younger generations are standing on their shoulders, they still need to honor them with action.

“We have to get away from just talking and coming together for that one day or for that one moment. This work is not always rewarding, is hard, is daunting, but is necessary work,” Turner-Sloss said. “I mean, look, it's cold. It's frigid today. But people made the conscious decision because they know what's at stake.”

Right now activists are pushing for the passage of two voting rights bills in Congress. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in the last year 19 states have enacted laws that make it harder for people to vote.

Ohio introduced two voting reform bills, HB 294 and HB 387. Democrats claim both make it harder for Ohioans to vote. Both are being reviewed by the Government Oversight Committee.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act were passed by the House in August of last year. Proponents of the bills say they strengthen federal oversight of the Voting Rights Act 1965.

But both bills are currently stalled in the Senate.

In a brief speech after the march, Mayor Jeffrey Mims who is a former Vietnam veteran said it's worth fighting for elected leaders fighting for civil liberties. He added that the fight is still not over.

“I fought for some rights that we still don’t have now today. I never thought that we would still be fighting for the right to vote,” Mims said. “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. And we have states across the nation doing everything they can to minimize your opportunity to vote.”

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Alejandro Figueroa
City Commissioner Darryl Fairchild speaking at a voting rights rally at Courthouse Square.

After the march was over, a small group gathered at Courthouse Square to rally in support of voting rights.

Speakers stressed the importance of voting. They said voting laws passed in states across the country over the last year have made it harder to vote.

Carlos Buford, a Dayton voting activist, said elected representatives need to do better to protect the voting rights of Americans.

“We are out here with no resources. Ok?, this is our own time. I don't get paid for this,” Buford said. “If they're not going to do what's right there, we're going to keep fighting. But at the end of the day, we've shown our power.”

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.