January 17, 2015 (Washington D.C.)--In a speech at a Justice Department ceremony Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder honored slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on what would have been King's 80th birthday. He praised King as “a man who helped to lead a really sweeping movement that forever changed the face of America and inspired people around the world to reach for opportunity and to reach for inclusion.”
He hailed the Civil Rights movement’s achievements but noted, “Even today, in 2015, our journey remains incomplete” citing economic and education inequities and recent assaults on the Voting Rights Act.
Holder also praised the “brave men and women of law enforcement,” but added that the nation must improve police officer safety at the same time that it confronts the sense of mistrust between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve.
As an initial step, Holder called for better reporting of data on both issues, noting that the current level of reporting by localities on both uses of force by police—as well as officer fatalities—was incomplete. He cited new federal initiatives ranging from body cameras for officers to a task force on 21st century policing.
Holder also acknowledged civil rights leader Dorie Ann Ladner, who organized the Freedom Summer Project, participated in many civil rights marches including Selma, Alabama, and was arrested for helping to integrate a Woolworth’s lunch counter.
Holder told her, “Ma’am, but for you, I would not be the Attorney General of the United States. Barack Obama would not be President of the United States. Thank you.”