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The day before the delivery of more than enough signatures to force a recall election against him, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was present as the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. was given a particularly powerful tribute by University of Maryland law professor and civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill.

"Many people want to own Dr. King's memory and claim him for their own," Ifill said:

I admit that I too wonder on occasion how Dr. King would respond to the great challenges of our day. Of course, we can never really know, but we have some clues and it would be an insult to the 12 hard years of extraordinary work that constitutes Dr. King's legacy to this country to pretend that we don't know what he stood for.

Those clues? Ifill summoned King's own words and actions on war, housing and mortgage discrimination, mass incarceration, and then, with Scott Walker sitting just feet from her, she said, "We know that Dr. King would have been on the side of workers struggling to receive a fair wage and decent working conditions. We know this ... we know this ... we know this ..."—and here, Ifill's repetition is not because she lost her way but because she could not be heard above the sustained roar of the crowd in the Wisconsin Capitol, with Scott Walker smirking away behind her. "We know this not because Dr. King was partisan," she finally continued. "Dr. King famously said 'both political parties have betrayed the cause of justice.' We know this because Dr. King died in Memphis, Tennessee where he had come to march in solidarity with the city's striking black sanitation workers."

Ifill's subsequent words on unemployment and corporate personhood drew what you'd generally consider good applause. But it was another issue that's been fought in Wisconsin over the past year that brought it home.

"And finally, I cannot pretend not to know how Dr. King, who fought against the poll tax and literacy tests, and who marched in Selma would have responded"—and here again a rising cheer begins to drown her out—"would have responded to the assault on voting rights throughout the country. I can't help but know how Dr. King would have responded to onerous requirements that require the elderly, and rural voters, and minority voters, and members of Native American tribes who've lived on the reservation to have a government-issued ID to vote."

(h/t Workers Independent News)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Jan 17, 2012 at 03:26 PM PST.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement and Daily Kos.

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