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Civil Rights Leaders Call for Legislation After 'Soul of the Nation' Speech

In the wake of a fiery speech about preserving democracy in the nation, President Joe Biden doubled down on his efforts and met with Black civil rights groups to discuss legislative efforts to improve equality and justice in the U.S.

Biden smile 5621670 640The meeting covered a wide-range of topics including healthcare, student debt, policing, public safety and women’s rights, according to the White House. Participants included Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network; Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Dr. Thelma Daley, national chairwoman and president of the National Council of Negro Women.

“The persistent disintegration of voting rights and the urgent need for fundamental reform around policing and criminal justice will continue to be our clarion call until demonstration is turned into legislation and every American has equal access to jobs, voting and the protection of our fundamental rights,” said Sharpton, in a statement.

The civil rights leader invoked the spirit of the 1963 March on Washington in calling for immediate action to protect the interests of disenfranchised Americans. “We urge Washington to fulfill the same dream that was sought 59-years-ago this week at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The anniversary of this inflection point was the reason we sought a meeting with the President to highlight the alarming rollback of civil rights in this country,” he added.

Per the White House, other participants in the event included:

  • Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
  • Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League
  • Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund
  • Maya Wiley, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Cedric Richmond, former U.S. congressman

From Twitter

Steve Schmidt @SteveSchmidtSES

“Fascism didn’t take power in the 1930s because it was strong. It took power because democracy was weak and corrupt. The American fascist movement will never be a majoritarian movement. It doesn’t have to be to take power."

On Thursday, Sept. 1, Biden delivered remarks at the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. There, he did not mince words about his concerns with the direction of the nation and even went as far as describing democracy and equality in the U.S. as “under assault.” “We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise,” he said.

Nelson said the way to protect the interests of all Americans is through electing representatives committed to the “constitutional ideals” of equality and justice. To do so, she said, will take a concerted effort come election time.

“The dual threats of voter suppression and election sabotage mean that none of us can take our right to vote for granted. It’s absolutely imperative that every individual and every community who is dedicated to furthering the gains we’ve made commits to participating in the November elections,” Nelson said. “It is equally imperative that every state and federal actor works to protect the right to vote and remove obstacles to voting, especially those that target and disenfranchise Black voters. That is the only way forward.”

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