‘Reclaiming MLK’ protest draws thousands, of all races, to Center City

Lynette David shook her head.

David, who lives in Yeadon, Delaware County, but comes from 24th and Lombard Streets in South Philadelphia, was astonished by the thousands who marched with her in Center City Monday afternoon.

“What is really touching and moving is that we have all races, ethnic groups, and ages,” said David, a black woman who moved to Yeadon 20 years ago. “So that goes to show you that nobody is satisfied with where we are, they want better for everybody.”

She canvassed the crowd. “This is what America really looks like,” she said.

The estimated 2,000-person protest, which snaked through Center City, intended to reclaim Martin Luther King Day not as a holiday but as a day of remembrance. Protesters intended to channel the spirit of Dr. King and call for what still eludes not only African Americans but impoverished and marginalized citizens of every race: a proper education, a living wage, and to live free of prejudice and discrimination.

Organizers said the protest was fueled by the recent deaths in Ferguson and Staten Island and the subsequent protests.

David said many of the same issues that protesters addressed in the 1963 March on Washington are still on the hearts and minds of protesters more than 50 years later.

“People following through with what they promised to do,” David said.

“People need to stand up, and not shut up,” she added. “Let your voice be heard, and let your vote be heard. It’s one thing to get out here today, but this is a process. It’s got to be continued on a daily basis. You have to fight. You can’t give up the fight.”

The rally demanded the country live up to what one organizer called the unfulfilled promises of the framers of American democracy.

Rev. Mark Tyler, of the Mother Bethel A.M.E church and a march organizer, called out to the large crowd outside the School District of Philadelphia headquarters on North Broad Street before the march and said equal rights is not a dream to dust off once a year.

“If you’re ready to march, don’t just march today,” Tyler said, “march everyday.”

Ray Lewis returns

Retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis, who repeatedly protests in full uniform and has been arrested previously for his demonstrations and outspoken views on police brutality, marched in Monday’s protest.

He carried a sign that read: “Police: Try kindness.”

The best that could come out of Monday’s protest, he said, was motivation.

“You’re not going to see any changes from today,” Lewis said, “but hopefully it will inspire people to continue to stay in the fight and attract more people.”

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