Throughout the Twin Cities, people bundled up and marched together on Monday to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and speak out against injustice.
“It’s easy for you to say, ‘I want to make a change,’ ” but showing up to march proves you meant it, said Maryan Hersi, a junior at Anoka High School. She was one of many students who braved the cold and spent their day off school at the Ordway Center in St. Paul, where politicians, artists and community leaders urged people to continue King’s work.
It’s not enough to remember a great man, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told attendees. People must work to stop the violence that is tearing apart families and close Minnesota’s achievement gap between students of color and white students, which is one of the largest in the nation, she said.
“We know Dr. King would not be satisfied, and we are not satisfied,” Klobuchar said.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison echoed her message and outlined specific changes he said are needed to advance equity in Minnesota, including welcoming Syrian refugees and raising the minimum wage. Ellison said. He also called for “meaningful investments” in community-oriented policing.
People are struggling to have good relationships with officers, who sometimes abuse the poor, Ellison said.
“It’s not being a cop hater. It’s not being anti-police. It’s being anti-police misconduct,” he said.
Many law enforcement officials attended Monday’s event in St. Paul and marched with protesters. A police officer was among the officials who helped hold a banner that included the message, “Standing together to honor the man and realize the dream.”
The marchers also included many Oromo community members, who said they were trying to raise awareness of a crackdown on protesters in Ethiopia — who oppose the expansion of the capital Addis Ababa into the Oromia state — and the deaths of college students during protests.
Supporters of the Oromo cause came to celebrate King, and see similarities to their effort and his, said Awol Windissa, a local community leader.
“The same issues, the same injustices. The only difference is the time,” Windissa said.
Community members of all ages attended the event that was organized by the Governor’s Council on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. It included music, dance, spoken-word performance and prayer.
Some common themes emerged from the various speeches given at the celebration: More work is needed, and young people need to continue the push for justice.
King recognized that his vision for equality may not be achieved in his lifetime, Gov. Mark Dayton said.
“May Dr. King rest in peace, and may we not rest in peace until we’ve done our part to help achieve his dream,” Dayton said.
After the event, Jackie Cooper, a member of the African-American Leadership Forum, said she felt optimistic that younger people, such as those involved in Black Lives Matter, are continuing the passionate work of past black leaders.
“They want to be heard, they want to be seen. They want us to pass the torch, and we need to,” Cooper said.
Selam Berhea, a senior at Blaine High School, said she sees growing awareness among her classmates and feels a pressure to continue building on the dreams of King and other leaders.
“That’s the whole reason I try to do well in school,” Berhea said. “I want to sustain the success the black community has achieved.”
Later in the day, more than 50 people braved cold weather for a protest march that included contingents from Minneapolis and St. Paul meeting in the middle of the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue bridge over the Mississippi. The “Tale of Two Cities” marchers called for justice for Jamar Clark and Marcus Golden, both of whom were fatally shot by police in 2015.
Members of Golden’s and Clark’s family attended the protest, which was promoted on Facebook by the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar.
Clark’s cousin Alexander Clark spoke to protesters on the bridge.
“This is the time for the people to fight back,” Clark said on a megaphone to the marchers. “It is time for the people to wake and be conscious.”
Speakers kept their messages brief so the marchers could escape the cold. They called for an end to what they said was corruption in the St. Paul Police Department.
Protesters held up signs criticizing the justice system and calling for police accountability.
As the group marched off the bridge, 11-year-old Dyvonte Clinton chanted on a megaphone.
“You can’t stop the revolution, he said. “Black power is the solution.”
Dyvonte was sprayed with chemical irritant by police last May during a march on 7th Street in Minneapolis, said his mother, Susan Montgomery.
She said her son continues to protest against injustice.
“He encourages me,” she said. “He keeps on fighting.”