Hundreds March in SF to Celebrate MLK Day

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Hundreds of people marched from the San Francisco Caltrain station to Yerba Buena Gardens yesterday morning in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Many in the crowd had come up the Peninsula on the Freedom Train, a specially chartered Caltrain devoted to celebrating King's legacy, but others came from all over the Bay Area to honor the memory of the civil rights leader.

One of the riders, Jim Zito, 54, of San Jose, said he brought his 10-year-old son to the march with him to show the importance of what King stood for, and how to exercise civic rights.

"What we do today can affect the future," he said.

Zito was 10 years old himself when King was assassinated.

The crowd, which included San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr and state Sen. Mark Leno, was made up of people of all ages, and the marchers made their way to Yerba Buena walking up Third Street in the sun.

Those in the front sang songs, including "Amazing Grace."

"It's awesome," Suhr said.

"What better message than to judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Suhr also thought it was fitting that the celebration coincided with the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

"You can't draw it up any better than that," he said. Edmond G. Brown, 63, of Oakland, was with a group called "In the Black House," and said he believes minorities have not had the same impact since the assassination of King despite the shrinking population gap between some ethnicities.

"We don't seem to wield that kind of influence," Brown said.

"At some point we need to stand together."

He cited issues such as the foreclosure crisis and problems with the quality of the education system as areas where Obama can create change.

"This is the agenda Obama should be following," Brown said.

The mission statement for "In the Black House" is "to empower minority communities utilizing the election of the first black president as a catalyst for change."

During the march, many people carried signs, one reading, "Say no 2 racism and sexism."

Another read, "Jobs, housing and education, not war and occupation."

An interfaith ceremony was held at Yerba Buena Gardens and included multiple speakers, the singing of "We Shall Overcome," and a reading of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of that speech.

"This is a crowd that reflects the diversity of San Francisco," San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu said.

"This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, re-inaugurating our first African American president ... Today is a good day for San Francisco."

Supervisors Malia Cohen and Scott Wiener were also in attendance.


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