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Planes bring shame to MLK march

As Air Force jets flew over Pittman-Sullivan Park in a missing-man formation last Monday, a small group of protesters stood in the drizzle and shouted “shame, shame, shame,” drowning out Mayor Phil Hardberger, who was delivering a tribute to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

They shouted down District 2 Councilwoman Sheila McNeil, and one protester vowed to work to oust her from office in light of her support for the military flyover during a march honoring a Civil Rights hero who fought for peace and non-violence.

The City’s MLK Commission sparked controversy when it announced the flyover would be included in the annual MLK march and celebration. Protesters at the event wore black-and-gold armbands to mourn “the fact that the MLK Commission is killing Dr. King’s legacy.” The yellow armband represented “hope for the return to the world and MLK Commission of King’s message against violence and militarization and for his work to promote peace, love, and justice,” according to a press release from organizer Tommy Calvert Jr.

King never called for any military flyovers, Calvert said. “Dr. King believed that violence and its tools were futile, useless, and called on people to lay down their arms before they came to the table of brotherhood.”

Of the politicians who were introduced during the ceremony, only District 5 Councilwoman Patti Radle drew cheers from the crowd, as she spoke out recently against the flyover.

A protester held a sign that contained a King quote: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” King made the statement in 1967 when U.S. military forces occupied South Vietnam.

“I’m here today to honor a man who gave his life to eliminate the triple evils: poverty, racism, and war,” said Arecha Williams, who held a sign reading, “war and lies over, not military flyover.”

Michael Cary

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