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On 'Freedom Riders' 60th anniversary, voting activists ask Biden to do more

·2-min read

By Merdie Nzanga

June 22 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden needs to do more to secure voting rights for Black Americans, said activists traveling through the South to commmemorate the historic 'Freedom Riders'.

"I am hoping that we will see the same kind of tenacity, commitment, and passion around protecting the civil rights of Black voters as we've seen with other policies," LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, which organized the tour, told Reuters from Atlanta on Monday.

Dozens of civil rights activists are traveling on five customized buses from Jackson, Mississippi to Washington D.C. this week, to mark the 60th anniversary of the historic protest against segregated bus terminals in the south, and push for voting rights legislation.

They were greeted in Atlanta by a rally of hundreds of local activists and Georgia residents, a local band and performances of the "Electric Slide" line dance in front of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Biden has appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the Democrats' effort against a slew of restrictive state voting rights bills, including sweeping changes in battleground states like Georgia https://www.reuters.com/world/us/big-changes-under-georgias-new-election-law-2021-06-14.

Congress will vote on a Democratic-backed voting rights bill Tuesday, that faces long odds in the U.S. Senate.

"I think he needs to look for the next John Lewis," Shenita Binns, 42, a civil rights activist from Atlanta told Reuters, referring to the Congressman and activist who was instrumental to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Biden "needs to look right here in Atlanta because we are the ones who have been on the ground fighting against voter suppression...we are the ones who put Biden into office," Binns said.

Biden gained the White House, and his Democratic Party both houses of Congress, on the back of Georgia's switch in 2020 from a Republican 'red' state.

The bus tour will head to South Carolina, North Carolina, and stop on Thursday in Charleston, West Virginia, home state of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who has refused to back the Democrats' broadest voting rights proposal.

"There's more that we think the White House could do, and that involves continuing to put pressure on folks like Manchin,"

Cliff Albright, executive director and co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told Reuters.

"When I say pressure, we don't even care what it looks like," Albright said. "It could be the carrot or it could be the stick, it doesn't just have to be pressure. It could be 'Look what does it take for this to be done with,' to be honest."

(Reporting by Merdie Nzanga; Editing Heather Timmons and Michael Perry)

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