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Martin Luther King III tells marchers, 'The fight must continue'

August 24, 2013|By Alexei Koseff
  • Tens of thousands gathered on the National Mall on Saturday to observe the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
Tens of thousands gathered on the National Mall on Saturday to observe the… (Jose Luis Magana / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader, called on tens of thousands gathered on the National Mall on Saturday to carry forth his father’s vision into the future.

"This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration," King said at a rally marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

"This is not the time for self-congratulatory celebration .... The fight must continue," King said from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where his father delivered his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech.

Like the younger King, many of the speakers Saturday focused not on history, but on work they said must still be done.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was the youngest speaker at the original march, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both urged new legislation to replace key parts of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in June.

"You've got to push and pull and make America what it ought to be," Lewis exhorted the crowd. "Stand up, speak up, speak out and get in the way."

Other speakers addressed a wide range of issues that were not on the agenda in 1963, including immigration reform, gay rights, gender equality, gun control and prison reform.

Sybrina Fulton made a brief, emotional appearance in which she reminded the crowd that her son, Trayvon Martin, could have been anyone's son.

Martin’s shooting death in February 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer sparked a national debate over racial profiling and "stand your ground" gun laws.

Fulton was cheered by the crowd, dotted with signs with Martin's face on them.

A common message that emerged from the many disparate voices Saturday was a call to unite to improve conditions for everyone.

"There's been many attempts to tell us we can't work together because we're too different," said Donna Payne, a representative from the LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign. "Don't believe the hype! ... It's about all of our civil rights, for everyone."

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alexei.koseff@latimes.com

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