COLUMBIA, S.C. – For the first time in 17 years, no Confederate flag appeared in Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy celebration on Monday, when civil rights leaders and presidential candidates gathered at the South Carolina Statehouse to pay tribute to MLK.
Police said last summer that a young white man shot nine black church members to death in Charleston, specifically at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, during a Bible study. After the massacre, Gov. Nikki Haley made it a top priority for lawmakers to bass a bill to take down the flag.
At a breakfast prayer, Bishop James Walker, who leads the 7th Episcopal District in Connecticut, praised the efforts made by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to have the flag removed. He described the flag as “a symbol of injustice”.
“What most people around the world want, whatever nation they live in, is the freedom to participate in government, the freedom to prosper in life and the freedom to peacefully coexist,” expressed King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King.
She emphasized that freedom was a particularly important topic this year, since it is the 50th anniversary of her father’s trip to Chicago to remark the need for fair and open housing. In January 1966, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had released plans focused on the Chicago Freedom Movement. Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was set to give a speech regarding that legacy.
Around 1,000 people gathered at the Statehouse to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the federal holiday, paying tribute to the slain civil rights leader who was killed in 1980. With the theme of this year’s rally being “education equity”, the state NAACP remarked that further work is needed to do honor to King. Speakers called for South Carolina to spend more state funds for the benefit of students in poorer, more rural school districts. These areas usually have a majority of black students.
Aside from the rally in Columbia, in Washington President Barack Obama alongside first lady Michelle Obama planned to participate in a community service program in King’s honor. Attorney Gen. Loretta Lynch was set to be the main speaker at a National Action Network King Day Awards program and James Comey, director of the FBI, was in charge of leading a government wreath-laying service at the memorial of Martin Luther King Jr. in the nation’s capital.
In Atlanta, the holiday was celebrated at the Ebenezer Baptist Church with a remembrance ceremony. New York will be also celebrating King’s Legacy, at the Capitol complex. Performances by blues guitarist Guy Davis and Grammy-winning gospel singer Dorinda Clark-Cole will be included in a free program at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, among other musical and theatrical tributes.
Activists with the group Black Lives Matter in Minneapolis were set to march onto a Mississippi River bridge that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul. The group would rally for the release of a video that features a Minneapolis police officer shooting a young black man to death last November. The victim was a 24-year-old called Jamar Clark.
And in St. Paul, protesters are fighting to see Marcus Golden’s case reopened, after a grand jury decided not to indict the officers who took part in the shooting. Golden was killed by St. Paul police about a year ago.
Compared to previous years, there is a heavier security presence due to the appearances of the Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.
Source: Huffington Post