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US remembers Martin Luther King Jr. amid racial tensions over police killings

The holiday came against the backdrop of recent nationwide protests over the deaths of unarmed black men.

By: Associated Press | Atlanta | Updated: January 20, 2015 12:21:32 pm
onathan Smith carries a picture of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during a parade to honor King, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Angela Lewis Foster) onathan Smith carries a picture of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during a parade to honor King, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Angela Lewis Foster)

Speakers honoring the Rev Martin Luther King Jr. at his spiritual home in Atlanta repeated the same message on his national holiday on Monday: We’ve come a long way, but there’s still much to be done to fulfill the slain civil rights activist’s dream.

The holiday came against the backdrop of recent nationwide protests over the deaths of unarmed black men and boys at the hands of police around the country. King’s daughter, the Rev Bernice King, urged those gathered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta for the 47th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemorative Service to act out against injustice. But she also said they should heed her father’s message of nonviolence.

“We cannot act unless we understand what Dr. King taught us. He taught us that we still have a choice to make: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation,” she said. “I challenge you to work with us as we help this nation choose nonviolence.” She invoked the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York City and the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland, Ohio. All three were killed by white officers.

“I cannot help but remember many women and men who have been gunned down, not by a bad police force but by some bad actors in a police force,” she said. Protesters in California, many of them students at Stanford University, blocked the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge forcing westbound lanes to close for more than an hour yesterday night, authorities said. The California Highway Patrol said numerous protesters were in custody and dozens could be seen being loaded into vans and taken off the bridge.

The Northeast Ohio Media Group reported about 60 people gathered Monday at a recreation center where a Cleveland police officer fatally shot the 12-year-old. Their march ended at the city’s public square and police told the group some arrests were made. In Seattle, authorities reported a handful of arrests after dozens chanting “black lives matter” disrupted traffic in Seattle, blocking part of a state highway and interstate off-ramps.

Seattle officials advised motorists to take alternate routes when one side of a key state route was temporarily blocked. The shootings of unarmed blacks sparked protests and debate over police use of force. The tensions grew after two New York City police officers were shot to death last month by a man who suggested in online posts that he was retaliating for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York.

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