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Rally and march draw record crowd, especially more whites and clergy

 

The more than 3,000 who rallied at Spokane’s Convention Center and marched to Riverpark Square on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day—double many previous years—were “not afraid and would not be bullied,” said event co-chair Ivan Bush, expressing gratitude to see the community come together as one.

mlk marchers 2012
MLK Jr Day marchers 2012

Not only were there more people, there were more white people and clergy than in previous years.

“We are one community coming together.  We’re not going to let anyone turn us around,” he said, referring to last year’s bomb threat on the march.  “We’ve come too far.  We have plans.  There is no room for hate.  Hate does not live here any more.  I’m glad the community is standing for something.”

A roll call revealed that people came from the Spokane area and from Walla Walla, Coeur d’Alene, Alaska, Montana, Louisiana and California.

Ivan called those gathered to extend the day from the third Monday of January through the year.

Spokane’s Mayor David Condon said Martin Luther King Day each year is an opportunity to “pause and recommit ourselves to equality.  Although we celebrate one day, we work to live out the commitment to end racism and build his dream every day.”

He promised that Spokane would continue to be a leader in that work.

mlk sign 2012
MLK Jr Day marcher

State Senator Lisa Brown said the turnout was part of people standing up and speaking out around the world, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement.

Going out into the 14-degree temperature, she said, “I remembered that some folks are cold and have no home.  We are here to stand up not just for ourselves, but also for them.”

In the 60-day legislative session, she said Martin Luther King, Jr., would challenge legislators not to back off programs for those in need, education, economic opportunity, the social safety net or economic equality.

“In this affluent state in an affluent country,” she said, “he would call us to be our best selves.

“We stand here for freedom to speak, freedom to march, freedom of religion and equality.  What does equality mean if it’s not in our social policy?” Lisa asked.

State Senator Mike Baumgartner said the size of the crowd made it one of the proudest days in Spokane’s history.

“We are here to celebrate racial equality and tolerance, the best of America.  Given what we saw last year, we are standing up against the worst of America—intolerance and extremism,” he said.

“Each person here is a witness that the Inland Northwest is not a refuge for bigotry or intolerance, but a beacon of equality, freedom and justice,” Mike said.

The Rev. Stephen Thurston, president of the National Baptist Convention who also serves a church in Chicago, expressed his joy at celebrating the life, labor and legacy of a great man, a martyr who modeled Jesus and his ethic of love for people everywhere, “not just people of ebony hue, but people of all colors.”  He also called for marchers to work to bridge “the wealth gap.”

William Basl, executive director of the Washington Commission on Community Services, said AmeriCorps takes youth off the streets, “putting hope where there was hopelessness.”

“Across the country today, people are talking of service,” he said.  “I work with 1,500 who take a year of their lives to serve others.  Dr. King said, ‘Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.’”

Ivan reminded as he has in many marches:  “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

MLK Day marchers
MLK Jr Day marchers

David Browneagle, an elder of the Spokane Tribe, sang a prayer for “those who came here, those who were brought here and those who were here.  For all of us, however we came here, this day we need to remember and thank our ancestors, who fought, died and suffered. 

“As we stand here, our children and future generations, for whom we will be the ancestors, will be able to say we talked about hate and did something.  The only way things will change is for us to come together like today,” said David.

The Rev. Happy Watkins, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, came forward.  He and Ivan announced they were looking for the younger generation to take over leadership for the event, and then he fired up marchers with an emotional presentation of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

For information, call 455-8722.