Mass rallies were held across the United States on Monday during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday to honor the civil rights icon and protest against the mistreatment of minorities by police.
Tributes to Martin Luther King Jr., an African American civil rights leader, were staged in more than a dozen cities amid tensions over police shooting of blacks and inequalities in the US criminal justice system.
Nearly 2,000 people attended a commemoration service for King at a church in Atlanta where he once preached, with some holding placards reading “I can’t breathe” and “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” to honor Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two black men killed by white police last summer.
In New York City, about 400 protesters blocked traffic as they walked about 60 blocks from Harlem to near the United Nations, chanting “Black lives matter!” as King’s speeches were played from loudspeakers.
“This march is about reclaiming Martin Luther King. He was a radical organizer – he’s been arrested, he believed in non-violence, but he was also disruptive,” said Linda Sarsour, spokeswoman for the Justice League NYC, which organized the #Dream4Justice March.
Protests were held in other US cities, including Oakland, Houston, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas and Baltimore.
The civil rights rallies began Thursday, with dozens picketing in Philadelphia where US Attorney General Eric Holder was speaking about community and police relations.
Protest leaders say the rallies are part of a new civil rights movement that began in August when outraged residents in Ferguson, Missouri, poured into the streets after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer.
The killing of several unarmed black men by white police officers in recent months and decisions by grand juries not to indict some of the officers has triggered large-scale protests across the US.
A recent survey by the Reuters and IPSOS polling organization has found a significant distrust of police in the United States, where many Americans believe police target minorities unfairly and often lie for their own interests.