US leaders call Ferguson ‘a turning point’ on eve of Martin Luther King Jr holiday

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is pictured during a steady rain in WashingtonLeading black members of Congress vowed on Sunday to lead a legislative fight for criminal justice reform, after recent fatal police shootings around the US.

Eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus joined US Representative William Lacy Clay at the Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson, Missouri on Sunday. A day before the national holiday in his name, they invoked the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Clay, a St Louis Democrat, sharply criticized St Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s handling of the grand jury that declined to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The caucus chairman, Representative GK Butterfield of North Carolina, said the group planned to use their strength in numbers in Washington. He also called the protests that arose after Ferguson and other shootings last year “a turning point in race relations”.

In Selma, Alabama, meanwhile Oprah Winfrey and other stars of the movie Selma were scheduled to march in honor of Dr King.

Selma director Ava DuVernay, Common and actor David Oyelowo, who portrays King in the movie, participated in a day-long event that commemorated King’s civil rights leadership.

Selma tells the story of a three-month period in 1965 when King led the movement for voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The stars will march to Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, where civil rights protesters were beaten and tear-gassed by state troopers.

Winfrey is a producer of the movie and portrays civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper. Paramount is holding two free screenings of the movie in Selma on Monday, to mark the King holiday.

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