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Peace and Justice March Honors MLK on Inauguration Day

Washington, DC - Braving near freezing winter weather and in wraps, even wheelchairs, over three hundred marchers and activists gathered at Meridian Park for the Arc of Justice Rally on MLK and Inauguration Day (January 21st 2013). A variety of groups were present including Stop the Wars, Peace Action, Code Pink, World Can't Wait, and Veterans for Peace.

The protest rally opened with Bob Dylan guitar music and Arc of Justice’s proclamation of a day of dedication to “Free Palestine.” This accounted for the presence of David Kirshbaum, owner of Palestine Media Project that the United States needs to “campaign to end the Israeli Occupation” because “unconditional support for the State of Israel no matter whom it hurts or how it violates our basic principles is very unhealthy for our democracy.”[1]

While a weekend full of low-key protest parties and rallies accompanying the second inauguration of our country’s first black President seem paradoxical, protest organizers took care to note how the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. exemplified pacifist, human rights beliefs, citing his civil-pacifist speeches. 

  • Lecturer and author-activist David Swanson, from North Carolina, spoke out about the need for cultural change away from addiction to war-profiteering. Oil cartels, environmental pollution, global warming, corporatization, and racism are all part of the equation. He emphasized: [2]

We need to bring all these groups together to take on those evil triplets that Dr. King spoke about not as isolated policies but as an integrated illness that our society is confronted with.

  • Peace activist Jean Athey explicated the nature of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s April 4th 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York City, the first among numerous speeches he made opposing the Vietnam War.  Athey compared today’s sanitized “saintly” version with the fire and zeal of the true Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. one year before his assassination:

Martin Luther King [Jr.]’s vision was radical and uncompromising. He took on the three biggest political issues of his day; issues that we still have, namely racism, capitalism, and militarism; and he called these the “giant triplets,” and saw them as entwined.

In his April 4th 1967 speech, the Reverend King, Jr. laid out seven valid reasons why peace and civil rights were intertwined, among these:  poverty, loss of hopes, gun violence at home, and the madness of war. Instead of being mired in war, he envisioned “how a true revolution in values, will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.” “War is not the answer” was undoubtedly the theme in his groundbreaking speech. [3]

Athey also compared Reverend King’s advocacy with the Congressional quagmire:

Today we are not even talking about ending poverty. ..The excuse of why we have to cut the safety net is the deficit; and why do we have a deficit? Because we cut taxes for the wealthy, and we have this outrageous military spending ie. wars.

She repeated Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote as a meme for the Arc of Justice rally:

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” [4]

  • Ruth Kaplan rhapsodized against Citizens United (Corporate Personhood) with a people's poem and delivered a chronology of the struggle, explaining:

This is about a road to liberation from corporate domination…To amend the Constitution to state that money is not speech; humans are beings, not corporations.

  • Peace and Justice[5] poet and lecturer Mauri’ Saalakhan from New York City issued an eloquent appeal on behalf of the Muslim community stating:

One of the other things that Dr. King said was that America back in the nineteen-sixties was the most violent nation on the earth. It was the purveyor of the greatest amount of violence on the Earth—and it is still!

Remarking on smaller than expected turn-out for the Arc of Justice Rally, Mauri’ also stated:

This is not a numbers game. This is about principle. This is about vision. This is about love…the true love of country is not a blind patriotism.

Again, these words indicated how the peace marchers treasured Dr. King’s April 4th 1967 speech, for in his reference to “Saving the Soul of America,” Dr. King also remarked:

“We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”[6]  

  • Leah Bolger, who had traveled with Veterans for Peace all the way from Oregon, delivered a shout out to Jules, who recently walked from Baltimore to Washington, DC to raise awareness about drones. In her speech, Bolger emphasized the need to keep pressure on Congress to recognize the people’s priorities and values.

We’ve heard the excuses, when Obama was elected the first time, we heard, ‘Oh, he’s going to be a Peace President; he’s going to end the wars; he’s going to be transparent; he’s going to close Guantanamo; he’s going to look out for the people… now we can just wait for the peace to happen.’ Well, we know it didn’t happen. We know that didn’t happen…

Bolger connected with the rally theme, quoting a radio show caller, “Dr. King would be on the forefront today just as he was when he was alive, raising hell about what’s happening in this country under the leadership of President Obama, working for the people, working for justice.”

  • Other highlights included Ladd Everett of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence[7] , who gave a rousing speech about supporting the better-late-than-never gun control  (assault weapons ban) legislation; Jane Z. of the Free Bradley Manning[8]  campaign, who pleaded against his imprisonment; and Deborah Sweet from Code Pink[9] (also sponsor and emcee for the Rally).

As the march proceeded down 16th Street, volunteers were drafted to tote signs and push the drone replicas (on wheels) for Stop the Wars. Code Pink distributed free stickers and warmed the marchers up with various chants. World Can’t Wait[10] carried banner with a huge NASA satellite image of Earth framed against somber black. Artful activism was demonstrated by Backbone Campaign[11] ‘s (from Washington State) replica of a sixty-foot segmented human spine with vertebrate sporting such slogans as “Change Requires Spine,” and “Audacity? Integrity? Spine up!” Other groups included Free Bradley Manning[12] activists, and Stop Patriarchy[13] who wielded orange “Abortion on Demand” signs.

As an Asian-American reporter marching along, the rhythmic beat of the Japanese Buddhist drummers inspired me even before the rally had begun. I had the opportunity to interview one of the drummers, Jun Y., and she told me they were with Nipponzan Myohoji, founded by Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii, who made it his life's mission to work for abolition of nuclear arms.[14]

The words Jun spoke: “We don’t need no more fight. We need to save the planet. Killing is no solution”; echoed and resounded with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s own words from his April 4th 1967 speech:

This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate -- ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. [15]

There was nothing that different between one religion’s words and another’s, for the life-saving chant intermixed with syncopated beats signified that we did not intend to give up, ever, even at the terminus, even presumably “with a decade of war ending.” [16]

Website Citations

1. www.palmediaproject.org

2. http://davidswanson.org/node/3938

3. http://4amoreperfectunion.blogspot.com/2011/01/rev-martin-luther-king-jr-april-4-1967.html

4. Ibid.

5. http://www.peacethrujustice.org/home.htm

6. http://4amoreperfectunion.blogspot.com/2011/01/rev-martin-luther-king-jr-april-4-1967.html

7. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, http://www.csgv.org/

8. Free Bradley Manning, http://www.bradleymanning.org/

9. Code Pink, http://www.codepink4peace.org/

10. World Can’t Wait, http://www.worldcantwait.net/

11. http://www.backbonecampaign.org/

12. Free Bradley Manning, http://www.bradleymanning.org/

13. http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/

14. http://katzjustice.com/DojoDC.htm

15. http://4amoreperfectunion.blogspot.com/2011/01/rev-martin-luther-king-jr-april-4-1967.html

16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzC135ql_wA&list=PLRJNAhZxtqH9n3FlEkZjuLdU1v69jkVYj

Photography and report prepared by Chriswong (blu-geese.org); opinions expressed not necessarily reflective of apaforprogress.org staff.  For complete perspective, please also listen to President Obama’s Second Inauguration Speech on YouTube (note 16).














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