The rally at the State House will be followed by a panel discussion back at Zion Baptist Church featuring Bernie Sanders.
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Sanders mentions being in Washington to hear King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “Let us never forget the title of that march as ‘For Jobs and Freedom,’” with an emphasis on “jobs.” He says those are still demands we have to meet today.
Sanders calls for a raise in the minimum wage and an end to racial disparities in wages, housing, and education.
“Instead of building a wall with Mexico, let’s build the housing our people need.”
“It gives me no pleasure to say this, we today have a president who is a racist,” Sanders says of President Donald Trump. “Instead of bringing us together as Americans, he has purposely and aggressively attempted to divide us up.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders praises King’s opposition to the war in Vietnam. “Many liberal friends deserted him, the president of the United States turned on him. But he reminded us of the courage of conscience.”
Booker says the crowd should commit themselves to living out King’s legacy.
“The challenge today is not what they do or they say, it’s what we do and we say,” he said. “This is the moment we re-commit ourselves to be the agents of change.”
He says we “cannot be defined by hatred of someone who votes differently from us.”
Booker ends with a reading of Langston Hughes, then invokes King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Sen. Cory Booker says many of those who came out on Monday are there because they are dissatisfied.
“We are dissatisfied that we live in a country with a better chance of getting justice if you’re rich and guilty than poor and innocent.
“We are dissatisfied that our country can find all the money it needs for tax breaks and military expeditions, but can’t pay a school teacher a living wage.”
Booker says we have to turn dissatisfaction into action.
S.C. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, the new president of the national caucus of black legislators, tells the rally, “When you are thinking about who you want to be president, think about where they stand on the issues... This is not a popularity contest.”
On President Trump’s proposed deal to reopen the government, Cobb-Hunter warns Democrats “Don’t fall for the okey-doke.” She tells S.C. voters to call their senators to “do your job” and get the government reopened.
Speaking to the media, Rep. Jim Clyburn talked about Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her controversial DNA test.
“My mother’s father was Cherokee,” Clyburn said. “I never talk about that… To Elizabeth Warren, just be who you are. Share your record with people. Lay out your vision for the American people, and let other people argue about who and what your DNA is all about.”
He says Sen. Kamala Harris chose “a pretty good symbol” in announcing her presidential bid on Martin Luther King Day but, “everybody will wait and see exactly how the substance will square with that symbolism.”
U.S. Rep Jim Clyburn of Columbia, the senior member of South Carolina’s congressional delegation and the new House majority whip, focused on what he called the “injustice” that South Carolina underfunds K-12 education, won’t pay teachers fairly and won’t expand Medicaid.
Rev. Nelson Rivers of North Charleston focuses on the Confederate flag, the original reason for the King Day at the Dome rally before it came down from the State House dome in 2000 and was removed from the grounds completely in 2015.
“That racist red rag has come down. It is not there,” Rivers said. “They said it would never come down. But if you’ve been black as long as I have, that word ‘never’ is nothing but a word to me.”
Rivers also took aim at Trump, saying that in 2020, “We’re going to shut down the orange menace.”
S.C. NAACP president Brenda Murphy opens with a jibe at President Donald Trump. “We relaxed a little bit too much and felt safe for the last eight years until 45 (Trump)” was elected.
Murphy went on to call for a fix SC’s public education system, including the school-to-prison pipeline. “We must give education a higher priority here in our state for our children in South Carolina,” she said. “They are at risk. If they are at risk, we are at risk.”
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin focused on the upcoming Democratic presidential primary in February of next year. “Make no doubt about it, the road to the White House starts in South Carolina,” Benjamin said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders made some comments to the press after this morning’s prayer service.
Marchers arrive at the State House.
The march to the State House is now underway from Zion Baptist Church. Both Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders are taking part in the march through downtown Columbia.
The march is a four-block walk from Zion Baptist on Washington Street to Columbia’s Main Street, then two blocks south to the north side of the State House on Gervais Street. Police have closed streets along the route for the marchers.
Rev. Shawn Johnson of New Providence Missionary Baptist Church tells the prayer service at Zion Baptist, “We have a shutdown that’s been caused by nothing but racial policies”
Johnson says South Carolina’s roads are crumbling, students are graduating schools without the skills to do basic jobs. “We are not angry enough. Many of us are still too silent.”
“I don’t care if you’re a Democrat. I don’t care if you’re a Republican,” he said. “But if you can’t do what the people need, we ought to make you unemployed.”
Rev. Andrew Davis of Zion Baptist Church began the service by noting that King was scheduled to visit Columbia in 1968 but decided to stay in Memphis for the sanitation strike. King was ultimately assassinated in the Tennessee city.
Rev. Patsy Craig Malanuk, of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral told the crowd at Zion, “Daily our spirits are assaulted by words of hatred. ... Division openly promoted in the name of political gain. Grant us grace... Until there is no more us versus them.”
Meanwhile, about 200 gathered at Brookland Banquet & Confetence Center in West Columbia for the Columbia Urban League’s 21st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast.
Speaking at the breakfast, Columbia Mayor Stephen Benjamin noted King was less popular than President Donald Trump in 1968, with 32% approval and 63% disapproval, stating “you can do what’s right and not necessarily be popular.”
5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson asked “what sacrifice are we willing to make” to keep King’s legacy alive today.
As South Carolina celebrates Martin Luther King Jr Day, rally-goers at the State House in Columbia will be witnessing the start of the 2020 presidential campaign.
Two prospective Democratic presidential contenders — Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — are scheduled to speak at the annual rally at the State House organized by the S.C. NAACP.
The visit by the two will kick off a week of presidential visitors to the capital city. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will speak Wednesday at Columbia College, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California will be at a fundraiser for the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at the State Fairgrounds.
The day’s events begin with a prayer service at Zion Baptist Church, followed by a march on the State House through downtown Columbia.
King Day at the Dome 2019
The schedule for Monday’s King Day at the Dome rally
▪ 8:30 a.m. Prayer service at Zion Baptist Church, 801 Washington St.
▪ 9:30 a.m. March to State House starts outside Zion Baptist
▪ 10:15 a.m. Rally at the S.C. State House, Main Street and Gervais
▪ About 1 p.m. Town-hall discussion with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Zion Baptist Church