King holiday marked by protests against war

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

ATLANTA -- Americans observed Martin Luther King Day on Monday with some activists charging that the war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies run counter to what the civil rights leader stood for.

"We have to be concerned not just about us. We have to be concerned about all our brothers and sisters throughout our nation and world," King's son Martin Luther King III said in a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father preached until he was assassinated in 1968.

"How many Iraqi children have been killed? When will the war end? We all have to be concerned about terrorism, but you will never end terrorism by terrorizing others."

At events across the nation, Americans were urged to work to realize King's dream of peace and equality. King Day activities included an affirmative action rally in Michigan, volunteering campaigns in Washington and Philadelphia, and a Florida protest against a speech by the president's brother.

Criticisms of President Bush popped up in several places.

In Boston, the first woman bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Rev. Vashti Murphy-McKenzie, said the nation should adjust its priorities.

"We can find billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan and we cannot find the money to rebuild the infrastructure of the United States," Murphy-McKenzie said.

Peaceful ends and means

Back in Atlanta, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, said: "Peaceful ends can only be reached through peaceful means."

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin brought forth a hearty standing ovation when she referred to a visit Bush made last week to King's tomb. The visit was picketed by nearly 800 people who said the president should not have come because his policies are inconsistent with King's principles of nonviolence.

Referring to the president, Franklin said, "Perhaps some prefer to honor the dreamer while ignoring or fighting the dream."

But amid the criticisms was a tone of hope. Martin Luther King III told congregants that his father would have wanted people to work together for peace and justice even when they seem impossible to achieve.

"He had a policy of zero tolerance for despair and cynicism," King said.

At the University of Michigan, hundreds marched in support of the school's affirmative action policy. The policy is under fire from a group that wants voters to decide the issue in a Nov. 2 referendum.

In Tallahassee, Fla., a group of college students protested the holiday speech by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother. Gov. Bush was invited to speak at historically black Florida A&M University, but students unhappy with his policies walked out before his remarks. The students criticized his views on affirmative action, among other things.

The governor said the students have every right to express their views. He also said Florida A&M's success "could not have occurred without the struggles that Dr. King and many others a generation ago undertook."

In Washington, volunteers helped the homeless, delivered meals to homebound people and took part in other projects, saying the best way to honor King's legacy was to give back to the community.

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