Recent police shootings add significance to L.A. King day celebration

Tens of thousands of people lined up along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in South Los Angeles on Monday for the 30th annual Kingdom Day Parade, celebrating the life of the legendary civil rights leader while dancing to the beat of marching bands and protesting recent deadly confrontations across the country involving police and black men.

Among the 3,000 participants in the parade, which included a replica of the bus Rosa Parks rode in when she was arrested for refusing to give her seat to a white passenger in 1955, were men in suits holding signs with the words "Black Lives Matter."


The group, known as Suits in Solidarity, led a red bus filled with people standing on top waving the signs.

The hashtag Black Lives Matter was born in the fall after a grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown. It gained traction as attention was drawn to other deadly confrontations between police and African American men in Los Angeles and New York — as well as the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a police officer in Cleveland.

Similar demonstrations occurred Monday during other Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorations throughout the country. In L.A., the peaceful protests blended in with the generally celebratory tone of the parade, which featured law enforcement officials, including from the Los Angeles Police Department.

"I used to listen to Dr. King's messages on records," said Alfred McCall, a South Carolina native, as Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, the parade's grand marshal, drove past.

"His message was not just for people of color," McCall said, "but for everybody."

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha, an intercollegiate fraternity, walked on the parade route carrying signs reading "Human lives matter," "Black lives matter" and "Dr. King's legacy matters."

Standing in front of a bus stop adorned with a poster for the movie "Selma," Edward Anderson, 24, and Jess Kent, 27, discussed the importance of sharing King's legacy.

Anderson said spreading the civil rights icon's message would raise awareness about current struggles throughout the country.

"It's good to remind young people of his legacy and to march forward," he said. "And seeing Black Lives Matter creates a sense of solidarity."

"It makes me feel proud," Kent said. "We still have a long way to go … but a lot of minorities look to the black community as paving the way. Martin Luther King paved the way for Harvey Milk," she said, referring to the slain gay rights leader.

Some protesters shouted "Hands up, don't shoot!" later in the parade. Shortly after, more than 30 activists marched down the street calling for justice.

"End legalized lynching," one sign read. Behind it was another message, a black fist rising in the air that said "Black lives matter."

Last year's Ferguson protests gave this year's parade extra meaning, said Fouad Rider. Rider, 21, hoped people would spread King's message of dignity, respect and justice.

"We're all human," he said. "It doesn't matter what your ethnicity is."