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PARADES were cancelled or replaced with online rallies across the United States today as the country marked Martin Luther King Jnr Day amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Events organisers said the federal holiday, which falls on the third Monday in January, was especially important following the year in which Black Lives Matter swept the country and days before a new president replaces Donald Trump, who emboldened white supremacists.
Faith Morris of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, referenced the Republican fixation with voter suppression, saying: “You can’t help but make the parallels between what Dr King was fighting for and all that we’ve been dealing with now.
“Back then, it all had to do with the ballot, the vote … and sadly not a whole lot has changed.”
Tensions were high over the last weekend of Trump’s presidency, with National Guard troops deployed at state capitols across the US for fear that far-right protesters would unleash violence as they did in the federal Capitol on January 6.
Though the weekend passed with only minor protests, organisers of events honouring Dr King that did go ahead in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, were on the alert for potential white supremacist attacks.
In Seattle, where a socially distanced march proceeded, organisers did not publish the route they plan to take as a precaution.
Others drew attention to the civil-rights leader’s equal focus on fighting inequality and capitalism itself, with Houston replacing its usual parade with “a parade of giving,” calling for donations to poorer families hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis.
Georgian senator-elect Raphael Warnock said the anti-racist movement needed to address economic injustice.
“The tragedy is that the minimum wage had more purchasing power in 1968 [when Dr King was assassinated] than it does in 2021,” he said.
US trade-union confederation AFL-CIO held its annual Martin Luther King Jnr civil and human-rights conference over the weekend, with president Richard Trumka noting that Dr King’s famous “mountain top” address, given the day before he was murdered, was delivered in support of striking sanitation workers.
He had knowingly risked his life to back their dispute in person, he said, “motivated by the righteous call of working people demanding dignity and a union.”
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