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D.C. Council Votes Unanimoulsy on MLK Street Bill

WI Web Staff Report | 7/17/2011, 10:46 p.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The 13-member District of Columbia City Council has unanimously passed the "Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive Designation Emergency Act of 2011," with each signing the bill as co-introducers.

"I'm honored and pleased to have introduced this emergency," Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry said in a statement. "This legislation will designate several streets beginning with Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., all the way across the Southeast freeway, past the future site of the Dr. King national memorial, and ending at the Lincoln Memorial," he c9continued. "This will connect the far east section of our city to the far west."

According to Barry, major thoroughfares that have traditionally been named after the slain civil rights leader are located in high-poverty and high-crime urban areas throughout the country.

However, with passage of the Council's legislation, the District has ended a trend by allowing the street designation to stretch across several diverse, affluent communities to streets that border historical landmarks and monuments, Barry noted.

Barry introduced the permanent version of the legislation in early June, and a public hearing was held on July 13. Among those attending the hearing were Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), who testified about spending 15 years fighting on Capitol Hill for a federal holiday in honor of King.

According to Barry's statement, Conyers said that prior to the United States' recognition, several other countries had already honored King with a national holiday.

In addition, Walter Fauntroy, who served as the District's representative in the House for 20 years, and Sterling Tucker, the first District City Council chairman, recounted their experiences working with King during the Civil Rights Movement. Other notable officials such as Congressman William Clay (D-MO) and Harry Johnson Sr., president/CEO of the MLK National Memorial Project Foundation Inc., expressed support for the legislation by submitting letters to the Council.

Passage of the legislation will permit the city to install designated signs in time for dedication of the King memorial site on Aug. 28. The memorial foundation has events planned for the entire week, including galas, activities for youth and a concert on the National Mall.