No justice, no peace. In the most devastating and detrimental blow to Americans, the electoral process and our Constitutional right to vote, the Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 4, which maps the areas that must have pre-clearance from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws, was ruled 'unconstitutional' in a 5-4 decision today, and the ball was thrown into Congress' court.
Eliminating Section 4 is just a slick, polished way of eliminating pre-clearance all together -- the very basis of the Voting Rights Act. This outrageous ruling puts African Americans, other minorities, the poor and all oppressed groups now at the mercy of state governments, yet again. It's as if we're in pre-1965 America. Many of us are rightly disappointed, shocked, outraged and hurt by today's decision. But we must take that justified frustration and mobilize it into sustained action. Let's not act like people woke up one morning and decided to give us rights and liberties; we made the nation pay attention, we put pressure our elected officials and we peacefully marched until justice was achieved. If today teaches us anything, it's that we can and will do it again.
Just yesterday, I stood with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s son and daughter to officially announce the 'National Action to Realize the Dream' rally and march we will hold this August at the nation's capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic 'March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom'. After today's regressive Supreme Court ruling, we will unequivocally ensure that the march will be centered around the protection and restoration of voting rights. And it is incumbent upon all of us as Americans to organize, convene in powerful numbers and demand what we want just as those before us did 50 years ago. We must put national pressure on Congress and those in office to establish stricter voter protection laws. Whether you're black, Latino, Asian, white, Native American, or an immigrant striving for citizenship and the opportunity to participate in one of the greatest democracies, everyone needs to be with us in Washington on August, 24th. There is undeniable power in numbers. Dr. King and the hundreds of thousands who joined him proved that 50 years ago; now we must do it today. If the highest court in the land is putting us back to an era before the Voting Rights Act, then we must organize like it's 1964.
Almost immediately following the Court's reprehensible ruling, we see voter suppression tactics at play. According to the latest news reports, Texas' Attorney General Greg Abbott announced: "With today's decision, the State's voter ID law will take effect immediately. Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government." In other words, those that are impacted the most by carefully concocted methods of disenfranchisement, will now be at the mercy of the states creating those schemes. Federal protection and oversight in place since 1965 has been undercut with one decision. Let's not forget that it was precisely because many states were blocking and repressing the votes of minorities that the federal government was forced to step in and create universal protections for all citizens. What the Supreme Court has done today is virtually canceled Dr. King's dream. Texas is just the tip of the iceberg; we will likely see all kinds of oppressive laws emerge in states across the country. It is a sad day for the nation.
Justice Roberts and others on the Court who voted in favor of striking down Section 4 would like to pretend that voter disenfranchisement is somehow only a thing of the past. As we saw in much of 2012, and even prior to that, a multitude of states passed or attempted to pass draconian voter ID laws, eliminated early voting days, and more. It was only because of a concerted pushback that we were able to combat many of these tactics designed to strategically target minorities, young voters, the poor and the elderly. Because they told us no, we came out in even larger numbers. And it's because of that power -- both in numbers and in our ability to mobilize -- that has certain elected officials and certain segments of our society scared. People stood in line for seven, eight or more hours because they refused to be robbed of their right to vote. They told us no, so we emphatically said yes. Now we must do the same during the mid-terms and in every election going forward.
In 1965, everyone knew there was a severe problem with the way in which our electoral process functioned. The Voting Rights Act was designed to equalize the system so that we could in fact live up to the notion of one person, one vote. Now decades later, the Supreme Court would like to take back the medicine that was healing the patient. It is simply outrageous."I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision today," said President Obama in a statement.
For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act -- enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress -- has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today's decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
I'm pleased to see the president on the right side of history. But this isn't about him. It's about you and your right to vote. It's about those who fought and literally died for our democracy. And it's about preserving the political process for future generations and for all Americans.
The Voting Rights Act of '65 was a people's movement from the bottom up. Those in power didn't wake up and say, let's do something to fix the system -- the people demanded it. And demand we must again. Whether you take a flight, a bus, a train, a car, or walk, join uson August 24th in Washington. Let a renewed movement begin.
Follow Rev. Al Sharpton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheRevAl