WASHINGTON, D.C. ( WUSA ) - On the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, a small group of demonstrators gathered near his memorial on the National Mall to argue it is time for the government to release sealed records about both his death and his life.
The records were ordered sealed in the 1970s by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which explored political assassinations.
"There are also federal agency files, state and local files, and police files, and court-sealed files, and even some international files that we think it would be important to be released on the life and death of Dr. King," said John Judge, who runs the Coalition On Political Assassinations.
Judge believes the government has things to hide, and believes James Earl Ray, the man convicted of the assassination did not fire the fatal shot.
"I think, no question, the government played a role in it and, also, the House Select Committee said there was a probable conspiracy, and a civil trial as well as an appeal trial that followed exonerated James Earl Ray and the civil trial pointed to the complicity of the U.S. Government," Judge said.
"I think that it's important to know that the family of Martin Luther King decided that James Earl Ray was not responsible for the death, and that the testing of the rifle in the 90s showed that the fatal bullet did not come from that gun that was supposedly the one used by Ray in the case, and that Ray was exonerated in a civil trial with all the evidence put forward to a jury, and that we need to look further than James Earl Ray to find out what happened to Dr. King.
Members of both the House and the Senate have said they will introduce legislation to expedite the release of the sealed records.
At the King Memorial on Wednesday, some visitors agreed on the need to release the records.
"I believe all full records should be released because it's time for the American People, for generations past, forerunners before I even was here, have been looking for this for over 40-something years because we've always believed there has been some kind of conspiracy that contributed to his death, and it's time for a full record of all things pertaining to his life," said Larry Williams.
"I think all records should be opened. It's the public's stuff, we should be able to see it. If there is nothing in there, let's see it...let's see what it is and let us make up our own mind. We're intelligent people," said John Winecker who was visiting from his North Carolina home.
"I think that it's something that the public should be aware of. I mean, for the longest time now we've all been interested in knowing exactly what happened when the assassination happened to Martin Luther King, so for us to be in the know would be a great thing," said Frank McDuffie of Washington, DC.
Judge says the release of similar records concerning President Kennedy had a big impact on public understanding.
"When the records were released they rewrote the history of the Bay of Pigs.
They rewrote the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis. They rewrote the history of the assassination, itself.
"And, I think, even if they ( the King documents ) show us no smoking gun, we should own our own history. And, I think, it's important for us to take that history back from the national security state and know what the government was doing and what it was thinking about Dr. King," Judge said.