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Rallies highlight King's philosophy

January 21, 2003

Washington - Rob Hardies looked out at a full crowd.

All eyes were on him as he talked about the impact of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the sniper shootings to a packed sanctuary of the city's All Souls Church, Unitarian during a service to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

On Sunday morning, Hardies, the senior minister of All Souls, wanted the hundreds of gatherers to realize the importance of avoiding violence.

"I hope that people come out of the weekend with a message of hope that there are alternatives to the path of war," said the dark-haired, soft-spoken minister after the service, held a day before the holiday.

"I think part of the message is remembering Dr. King's legacy of nonviolent resistance and remembering that Dr. King was not only a civil rights leader, but a peace activist and to think about how that impacts us today."

A workshop and rally commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day were held Monday in Washington in collaboration with anti-war rallies and marches throughout the weekend.

Hardies said he hoped the timing of the events would inspire President . Bush to consider alternatives to an impending war with Iraq.

Activists who attended Saturday's rally and march on the National Mall were quick to point out the influence of King's ideals on today's anti-war proponents.

"(King) was for peace and justice for all people and his message was the only way we can make change is through nonviolence; and we all need to get together to make that change happen," said Nancy Jean, of Derry, N.H., during the rally.

"Today, there's obviously quite a few Americans that don't want to have this war in Iraq."

As she walked through the Vietnam War Memorial, University of Michigan freshman Lhea Copeland said although many in Washington noted the link between King's support of nonviolent movements and the ideals of anti-war activists 35 years later, other issues also need to be recognized.

Visiting Washington with classmates, Copeland talked about her plans to get involved with Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities, some involving the issue of affirmative action in Ann Arbor.

Bush recently criticized the university's stance on affirmative action. Acceptance to the school is based on a point system, and racial and ethnic minorities are awarded more points.

Copeland said it's important for people to realize the goals of attaining equality and diversity through affirmative action.

"A lot of people don't really understand affirmative action and they have preconceived notions about it," she said. "I heard a couple speakers so far speak about Martin Luther King and they were quick to tie it to affirmative action."

But with rallies and marches held during the weekend, Copeland pointed out what she thought to be the primary focus of the weekend - avoiding war by using King's ideals of unity, acceptance and nonviolence.

"I think with the Martin Luther King holiday it's very important to realize that he stood against the Vietnam War and every other war," she said. "You can't acknowledge Martin Luther King without addressing the issue of war."


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