Thousands unite in support of Dr. King's message

Published On: Jan 21 2013 07:04:12 PM PST
Martin Luther King Jr., Library of Congress image
SPOKANE, Wash. -

For unity, for equality, and to show they're not afraid, thousands of people filled the streets of Spokane Monday to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The annual march started at the convention center and wound its way through downtown, with thousands braving the cold temperatures, many saying it's an annual tradition on honor the champion of civil rights.

Young and old, every color, every race, people turned out in droves at the convention center to embrace Dr. King's message of equality, his message spilling out into the streets of downtown Spokane as thousands marched to keep his dream alive.

"I practice it, I preach it and I love it. I love this time of year," Loretta Jones-Tensley said.

Spokane police showed their presence not just for security but also to share a message.

"Clearly the police played a very bad role in the civil rights movement. The attacks on children and adults with water hoses and German Shepherds," Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub said.

Straub marched to show that the police department will be there for everyone's protection.

"We're going to do that with respect, legitimacy," he said.

Woven into the colors of Monday's march was a sense of friendship and camaraderie, with the spectre of Kevin Harpham's plot to kill marchers two years becoming a distant memory.

"I wanna make sure that I still stand up and show [my] face and not let anything, you know, adversity stop us from marching for Dr. King's dream," Tere Zeta Graham said.

Two years ago, Harpham planted a bomb on the parade route with the intention of killing as many people as possible. After two city employees found his device police were able to re-route the parade and safely deactivate the device. Now the police department works to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Because of Harpham's bomb plot there was a heavy police presence downtown, with officers out in force to ensure the safety of all of the marchers.

"A lot of the preparation has to do with intelligence gathering," Straub said.

Along with Straub were members of his command staff, and as they passed each street corner along the route there were uniformed officers standing watch to make sure the parade went off without a hitch.

"I feel very comfortable that we have a good handle on things. We know what the threat level is. I'm not expecting any problems today," Straub said.

Behind the scenes officers patrolled for suspicious vehicles and packages, the bomb disposal unit was mobilized for rapid response, and the police and Spokane Fire Departments had an emergency command post along the parade route equipped with x-ray machines that could scan any suspicious device.

Thankfully, all of the precautions helped the focus remain on a celebration of a champion for civil rights; everyone in attendance brought something to share and took something away.

"Everybody has value everybody has a place at the table. And that's what we all seek and that's what we all hope for," Ivan Bush said. "It's just overwhelming and it feels good."

"I want to make sure I experience it all so I can know who I'm fighting for when I go to law school for civil rights, so I take it all in," Graham said.