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King Is Honored at L.A. Parade

Antiwar groups and military units march together to remember the late civil rights leader and his message.

January 21, 2003|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

The drums of war -- and of peace -- echoed Monday in Los Angeles as military units and antiwar groups marched together in a parade honoring the late civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 18th annual Kingdom Day Parade along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard attracted hundreds of marchers and a crowd estimated by police at more than 150,000. It was the largest of several commemorations of Martin Luther King Day in Southern California.

"I think Martin Luther King Jr. would have appreciated this," said Keith McDaniel, a 45-year-old Inglewood bus driver who stood with friends to watch the three-hour Los Angeles processional.

King's message of peace and nonviolence was not lost on those lining the parade route nor on those marching in it. Military bands and recruitment units and school ROTC drill teams were interspaced with church organizations and peace advocacy groups.

Maj. Gen. Paul D. Monroe Jr., commander of the 22,000-member California National Guard, rode in a camouflaged Humvee near the front of the parade. He acknowledged that King might not be pleased that war between the United States and Iraq is looming.

"But it's a balancing act," fighting to preserve peace, said Monroe, who has had 1,500 members called to active duty in preparation for possible action in Iraq.

On a float closer to the head of the parade, Gov. Gray Davis suggested that King would be urging President Bush to consult more with the United Nations before fighting Iraq if the black leader assassinated in 1968 were alive today.

"Dr. King was a man of peace. He believed conflicts could be worked out without violence," Davis said.

"Not every generation has its Dr. King," added Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who rode in a car behind Monroe. "I don't think this generation does. Not at the moment."

Junior ROTC military cadets from Garfield High School helped lead the parade, which included military-like entries from the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, the U.S. Navy Sea Cadets Corps, several rifle-bearing American Legion posts and ROTC groups at Culver City, Washington, Crenshaw and Torrance high schools.

"I don't think Rev. King would have the military here," said Sally Marr, a West Hollywood artist who stood along the parade route with an antiwar sign. "This has turned into a recruitment day here."

Vietnam War veteran Bobby Faulkner, a refrigeration worker from Ontario, disagreed.

"It's a good gesture to have the military here," he said as the Torrance High ROTC passed in front of him, executing a snappy, well-rehearsed drill to the beat of drums.

A few steps away, parade-watcher Marilyn Gisstennar nodded. "Martin Luther King would not accept war, but it takes everyone to make our society work. There's a spot for everyone in this parade," the Rowland Heights homemaker said.

Several pro-peace groups were scattered among the drill teams and military units. However, one group of peace activists was excluded by Los Angeles Police on grounds it was not a registered participant.

"We got invited with another group, but the organizers said it wasn't a two-for-one deal," said Kya Davis, a downtown Los Angeles resident and a leader of the activist group Not In Our Name. Its entry would have consisted of sign-carrying marchers and football stadium-style loudspeakers mounted on a wheelchair.

"Martin Luther King would be spinning in his grave," Kya Davis said. "Having all these military and ROTC units is absolutely not appropriate."

Crenshaw-area resident Lucile Butler was angry that Not In Our Name was blocked from joining the parade. "That's why Martin was killed, for speaking out against the Vietnam War," said Butler, an accountant who was 22 when King was slain.

Los Angeles police said the parade was peaceful, although 10 arrests were made on charges ranging from assault with a deadly weapon to battery on a police officer. Four of the arrests involved use of force by officers, said a police spokesman, who added that two officers received minor cuts and bruises in the incidents.

Elsewhere Monday, hundreds in Ventura County turned out in downtown Oxnard for a mile-long march to honor King's life. Many of them also waved antiwar banners and sang songs of peace.

"This is important -- it is in remembrance for what Dr. King stood for," said Oxnard resident Bill Terry, who carried a placard covered with a large black-and-white photograph of the Baptist minister.

"We have made some strides, but we have not come as far as we should have," said Oxnard resident Kamilah Wilson, who marches the same route every year in remembrance of King. "I think we are backsliding, a lot."

In Orange County, about 150 students paid tribute to King by performing a day of community service that included picking 4,000 pounds of vegetables to feed the hungry.

Other tributes included an appearance and speech by former Republican U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, and a community celebration at the 2nd Baptist Church in Santa Ana.

The volunteer students from Santa Ana Valley High School and UC Irvine spent the morning harvesting enough fresh vegetables at the Incredible Edible Park in Irvine to help feed 12,000 people in Orange County, organizers said.

Several students said they were making the national holiday "a day on" rather than a day off from school.

"We're just here to honor Martin Luther King and what he taught us. All of us volunteered to do this," said Mariana Granados, 15, a sophomore at Valley High School.

*

Times staff writers Tracy Wilson in Ventura and H.G. Reza in Orange County contributed to this report.

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