Northern California’s largest celebration honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. may have eclipsed last year’s crowd of 27,000, Sacramento police said Monday. Estimates ranged as high as 29,000, and MLK 365 director Sam Starks said the 34th annual Capitol March for the Dream might have been the biggest ever.
The march kicked off at Oak Park Community Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where several thousand community leaders – including ministers, activists, law enforcement and elected officials – walked the first “extra mile” to Sacramento City College, where most of the marchers converged. “This is the unity mile,” Starks said, urging everyone to strike up a conversation with a marcher from a different racial, ethnic or religious background.
Many parents marched with their children, including Pastor Darrell Robbson of Greater Hills Zion Missionary Church in south Sacramento and his 11-year-old daughter, Anisa. “The draw of MLK (Day) is to continue to show people we must continue to fight for all Americans and people around the world to show we are a human family. It’s not just what happened in Ferguson or Staten Island, N.Y.,” Robbson said. “The police are very important to the community. We have to teach our children to respect the law and to respect the police. You can’t see the law as your enemy.”
Anisa smiled at the rainbow of marchers and remarked, “I think it’s cool all different races together and walking for Martin Luther King Jr.”
A few feet away, Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers Jr. marched with half a dozen law enforcement officers. “This shows there’s a lot of unity in our community,” Somers said, adding that on the eve of the march, 160 churches came together at Capital Christian Center to find common ground.
Pastor Kevin Ross of Unity Church of Sacramento led about 100 congregants Monday, each carrying signs declaring white, black, gay, straight, Latino, American Indian, senior citizen, Asian, Jewish, Muslim “lives matter.”
That was the theme of Monday’s march: “All lives matter.” Several in the crowd wore green sweatshirts bearing King’s words: “Hate is too big a burden to bear – I choose love.”
A wide variety of causes, races and belief systems were represented. Eddie Navarro and his son Eddie Jr. carried the flag of the American Indian Movement with Josh Mize and Geno Nuglene, an Inupiaq Eskimo from Alaska. “We’re here to let people know American Indian lives matter, natives still exist and we’re still fighting for our roots and our land,” said Navarro, a Sicangu Lakota with some Toltec blood. “King spoke for equality for all people,” added Mize, a Ho-Chunk-Menominee-Osage Indian from Rancho Cordova. Indian casinos, designed to right past wrongs, too often “promote greed and disenrollment,” Mize said.
Emily Savage, a 29-year-old Sac City College student, marched with her 6-year-old daughter, Sir’re. “We need to come together and stop all this nonsense,” Savage said of racial disharmony in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson. “We need role models for our children – there’s nothing for them to do except get into trouble.”
The southern march ended at Sacramento Convention Center, where it connected with marchers from Grant High School in Del Paso Heights.
Police broke up a disturbance around the convention center Monday afternoon. “We had one juvenile and two adults arrested as a result of fights in the area,” police Sgt. Doug Morse said. “No major injuries, and police are continuing to monitor the situation.”
Sacramento police helped with crowd control at the expo, telling people to move from the sidewalk in front of the center whenever their numbers blocked pedestrian traffic, but nobody was refused entrance into the center, Morse said. Exterior crowds were told to go into the center or leave the area. Buses were available to take them if they wanted to leave, he said.
He added, “We’re very pleased to have great turnout this year.”
Call The Bee’s Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072.