Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday at a Justice Department commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. that efforts to bring tolerance and peace are more powerful than attacks on public officials like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)
Holder told more than 100 members of the DOJ community gathered in the Great Hall that the Tucson shooting Saturday that left Giffords critically injured and six dead, including Chief U.S. District Judge John Roll, brought the importance of King’s legacy of nonviolent activism “into stark focus.”
“This senseless and shameful act of violence serves as an unfortunate reminder that – more than 40 years since Dr. King’s own tragic and untimely death – our world has yet to run its course of cruelty,” Holder said. “And our work to combat violence – and to bring those who engage in violent acts to justice – goes on.”
The Attorney General praised the work of King, who was killed in 1968 as he fought for equality among all Americans. He said King made it possible for him to become the first black Attorney General. Holder said he will visit Atlanta next week to pay tribute to King at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the civil rights leader once was pastor, and at the King Center, which was established as a memorial to King.
Holder said King not only had a great influence on him, but also on the DOJ. The Attorney General said the civil rights leader’s dream of equality among all Americans helped fortify DOJ efforts to protect civil rights.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of the Civil Rights Division also praised King for his impact on the DOJ. But he also lauded Holder for his efforts to “restore and transform the Civil Rights Division.”
Holder made work to safeguard civil rights a top priority when he became Attorney General in 2009. The Civil Rights Division came under fire during the administration of President George W. Bush, when then-division head Bradley Schlozman was found to have improperly considered politics when hiring for career positions.
Holder said DOJ lawyers should be commended for their work to protect civil rights. But he said the fight for equality among Americans isn’t over.
“Now, for some, it may be tempting – when you look at the many accomplished attorneys and public servants in this Great Hall – to think that our nation’s struggle for equal opportunity has ended,” Holder said. “That’s not true. We have more to do. We have further to go.”