The Florida General Baptist State Convention is planning to march on the state capitol this month.
The march was announced Wednesday in Jacksonville, fifty years after the slaying of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The group said his work for racial and economic solidarity must continue.
King was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel while visiting Memphis to support striking sanitation workers.
At the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, local pastor and convention President James Sampson told demonstrators they should remember that when they march for restoring ex-felons’ voting rights on April 26.
“At the time of his assassination, he was there lobbying for an 11 cent raise. Fifty years later we need to have a living wage. There are so many people who are working poor. In fact, Dr. King was not allowed to even come into a hotel like the Hyatt,” he said.
“He had to stay in a place called the Lorraine Motel. There are folk right now that clean this hotel that can't afford to live in it because the living wage is not in place. So, I believe Dr. King would call all of us together and say ‘we can do better as a nation.’”
Tallahassee pastor R.B. Holmes echoed Sampson’s remarks, while criticizing what the two called the complicity of the white Evangelical church in supporting President Donald Trump, who the pastors said have forsaken the poor and minorities.
“Dr. King died 50 years ago for voting rights, for civil rights, for sanitation rights, for folk who were working as men and women picking up our trash. He had enough God in him to go to Memphis on April third and talk about the least of these,” he said.
Holmes and Sampson said the demonstration will also touch on immigration and gun policies.
The Tallahassee march coincides with a court-imposed deadline for Governor Rick Scott and the rest of the clemency board to come up with a new process for restoring voting rights to ex-felons after a judge ruled the current one unconstitutional.
Scott is appealing that decision, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to prove they faced discrimination because of being ex-felons. Voters this fall will consider a state ballot initiative that would mandate automatic restoration of voting rights.
The clemency board has a backlog of 10,000 cases.