Marching for King's dream: 'The task is not done'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tens of thousands of people marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and down the National Mall on Saturday, commemorating the 50th anniversary of King's famous speech and pledging that his dream includes equality for gays, Latinos, the poor and the disabled.

The event was an homage to a generation of activists that endured fire hoses, police abuse and indignities to demand equality for African Americans. But there was a strong theme of unfinished business.

"This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration," said Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of the slain civil rights leader. "Nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration. The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more."

Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, said he would not be in office, nor would Barack Obama be president, without those who marched.

"They marched in spite of animosity, oppression and brutality because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept," Holder said.

Holder mentioned gays and Latinos, women and the disabled as those who had yet to fully realize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream. Others in the crowd advocated organized labor, voting rights, revamping immigration policies and access to local post offices.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the only surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington, railed against a recent Supreme Court decision that effectively erased a key anti-discrimination provision of the Voting Rights Act. Lewis was a leader of a 1965 march, where police beat and gassed marchers who demanded access to voting booths.

"I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Ala., for the right to vote," he said. "I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us. You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You've got to stand up. Speak up, speak out and get in the way."

Organizers expected about 100,000 people to participate in the event, the precursor to the actual anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963, march that drew some 250,000 to the National Mall and ushered in the idea of massive, nonviolent demonstrations.

Marchers began arriving early Saturday, many staking out their spots as the sun rose in a clear sky over the Capitol. By midday, tens of thousands had gathered on the National Mall.

Lynda Chambers, 58, gave up a day's pay to attend because her retail job does not provide paid vacation. Even as a 7-year-old at the time of the original march, she felt alienated and deprived of her rights. Remembering those feelings, she said, she was compelled to make the trip Saturday.

"I wanted to have some sort of connection to what I have always known, as far as being a black person," she said.

Longtime activist Al Sharpton, now a MSNBC host, implored young black men to respect women and reminded them that two of the leading figures in the civil rights movement of the 1960s were women.

"Rosa Parks wasn't no ho," he said. "And Fannie Lou Hamer wasn't no bitch."

Speakers frequently mentioned persistent high unemployment among blacks, which is about twice that of white Americans, and the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. Along the Mall, Martin's picture was nearly as ubiquitous as King's.

Nancy Norman, of Seattle, said she was disappointed more people who look like her had not attended. She is white. But the 58-year-old she said she was glad to hear climate change discussed alongside voting rights.

"I'm the kind of person who thinks all of those things are interconnected. Climate change is at the top of my list," said Norman. "I don't think it's one we can set aside for any other discussion."

Those in attendance arrived in a post-9/11 Washington that was very different from the one civil rights leaders visited in 1963.

Then, people crowded the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and could get close to King to hear his "I Have a Dream" speech. Saturday's speakers also were on the memorial's steps, but metal barriers kept people away from the reflecting pool and only a small group of attendees was allowed near the memorial Saturday.

There was a media area and VIP seating. Everyone else had been pushed back and watched and listened to the speeches on big-screen televisions. Police were stationed atop the Lincoln Memorial. After the speeches, marchers walked from there, past the King Memorial, then down the National Mall to the Washington Monument, a distance of just over a mile.

On the day of the anniversary, President Barack Obama will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He will be joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Churches and groups have been asked to ring bells at 3 p.m. Wednesday, marking the exact time King spoke.

Joseph Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with King, urged the crowd to continue working for King's ideals.

"We've come to Washington to commemorate," the 92-year-old civil rights leader said, "and we're going home to agitate."

Associated Press

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial after the march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on Saturday. 50 years ago King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.



Eric  LeBlanc's picture

20 years from now

the far left will be regurgitating the same talking points only this time it will be for pedophiles. Love is love, right?

Steve  Dosh's picture

'The task is not done'

Mainers , 10:50 am hst ? Sunday
What do we think of this story ? 'The task is not done' until all hatred and other forms of bigotry are erased from the face of this good Earth . Embrace L G B T , all you moms and dads , single ppl , republicans and independents
Dick Cheney's daughter and Ron Reagan jr. do
What's to ƒear ?
Do hate hate and love love & foster further understanding
Don't be sarcastic or cynical and eschew all forms of violence •
? Steve , HI :D
" Only love can conquer hate " -- Marvin Gaye 1 9 7 5 , What's Going On

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

What a bunch of BS this is

The dream was not a bunch of perverts in assless chaps making out in the streets in front of children while waving a rainbow flag. You liberal degenerates make me sick. Keep trying to tear down this nation and you'll get what's coming to you.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Eric? BS - CS . What's the

Eric? BS - CS . What's the difference ? ;) /s Steve \/olunteer --> <--

Love and equality are beautiful things

Love is a beautiful thing, as is equality under the law. In reality, there are many couples who love each other and dedicate their lives to each other. Sometimes couples find magic that they can sustain for years, even for decades. And yes, sometimes the couples who find and sustain that magic happen to be gay. Consider, for example, Bill Scogland and Doug Heen. World War II veterans, they've been together for 60 years (, longer than many heterosexual couples. Why should such couples be denied the same rights under the law as heterosexual couples? Fortunately, voters in Maine affirmed last fall that there is no good reason for the state to treat those couples differently. If we grant marriage licenses to straight couples, then we should do so for gay couples. But until that's true in every state, Attorney General Holder is right: We have unfinished business to do.

The fact that Mr. LeBlanc willfully ignores the reality of such love as Mr. Scogland's and Mr. Heen's, and instead reduces gays and lesbians to a caricature, one that he dresses up in "assless chaps," reveals more about him, at least his own closed-mindedness on this issue, than it does about the issues in this article.

I never knew part of his

I never knew part of his dream was about gay rights. If I remember rightly he dreamed some day one would be judged by their character and not the color of their skin.
The reason his dream isn't here yet, is because the Democrats and those on the left are not following Kings dream.The policies of the left have created a nightmare
of a dream, for the true followers of King.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Dennis ? And what if your

Dennis ? And what if your children , cousins , aunts, and uncles , and grandchildren were ? Would you love them n e less ? Of course not . Ludicrous . Love love . That's why and how you were made . Out of love . The march continues and there is plenty or room under our †ent :D /s Dr. Dosh and ohana , HI

David  Cote's picture

YouTubed MLK Jr's full speech on its anniversary...

His words still charge me up, especially the last ten seconds of it. In my opinion, his speech remains, perhaps, the most important speech in our nation's history. And if I had the opportunity to shake the hand of any person, past or present, it is Martin Luther King Jr's hand I would ask to shake.

I just stated a fact. Dr King

I just stated a fact. Dr King was not a promoter of gay rights. He's problably rolling over in his grave seeing how the movement he started has evolved.


Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...