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Marching Becomes A Focal Point In Martin Luther King Jr. Day Event

Speakers recall role of peaceful processions in civil rights movement, discuss fees required for some New London events

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in New London received special attention at the service following the procession on Monday as speakers highlighted the role of such activity in the civil rights movement as well as a municipal fee that has been attached to marches in New London.

As in prior years, the march proceeded from City Hall to Shiloh Baptist Church with a brief stop outside the New London Superior Court. Accompanying police cruisers from the New London Police Department blocked traffic as marchers passed, with some participants carrying signs reading, “This is not a parade.”

Under an executive order by Mayor Daryl Finizio last May, events that make use of municipal services must account for costs like police overtime. The cost of these services must be paid in advance before a permit for the event is issued.

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The order has already been the source of some controversy, with the New London Irish Parade announcing that it will hold its celebration in another community this year after disagreements with the administration on the applicability of the fee. Finizio said on Friday that the organizers of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event told him that they were unaware of the executive order.

Finizio said he decided to foot the bill for the police overtime—approximately $800 to $1,000—out of personal funds. He said the city would not be able to violate its own policy but that he considered that organizers were acting in good faith and that the event was an important one to continue.

Bishop Benjamin K. Watts, pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church, thanked Finizio for pledging the funds. However, Watts also said he thought the city should make an effort to distinguish the march from other events.

“I told him it was an insult to ask for that fee,” said Watts.

Watts said church raises enough money to cover the municipal costs associated with the event at the service itself, but that these funds are donated to charitable causes. He said he considered parades to be celebratory events while the march and service were meant as a way to remember civil rights activists, including those who died for the cause.

“This is a commemoration,” said Watts. “We are remembering our dead. We are remembering our lost. We are remembering those who sacrificed their lives.”

Rev. Florence Clarke, pastor at the Clarke Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, said she took part in civil rights demonstrations such as lunch counter sit-ins. She said activists marched as a peaceful way to implement change.

“We marched and we didn’t have a permit,” said Clarke. “But what we met were fire hoses and arrest. We were placed in cages where they put animals.”

Invited to speak by Watts, Finizio promised to include in his 2014 budget proposal an item for funding commemorative events to be allocated at the discretion of the City Council. Finizio also spoke of King’s effort for economic justice and criticized the possibility of cuts to municipal aid in the effort to balance the state budget.

“They talk about cutting aid to cities like ours so that we have to lay off firemen, teachers, policemen. So that we have to charge people to march,” he said. “It’s wrong, and it’s time for us to focus our energies not just on the ongoing cause of civil rights, but on ensuring that economic justice and economic opportunity for all people in our society is realized in our lifetime.”

Elder Luther Wade III, the youth pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church and keynote speaker at the event, said equal access to education and health care are the key components of the modern civil rights movement.

“If we don’t have access to proper health care and aren’t able to live healthy lives, then we will not be able to fulfill our potential,” he said. “And if our children don’t have access to quality schools, then they will not be in a position to be contributing members of society.”

Rabbi Carl Astor of Congregation Beth El, who is retiring in June, thanked Watts for inviting him to be part of the service over the years and said the participants had become like a family to him. Referencing King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Astor also said his personal dream is a world without unemployment and violence and with equal access to shelter, food, and health care.

“It’s not enough to have a dream and it’s not enough to interpret a dream,” said Astor. “You have to do something about that dream if it’s going to have any meaning at all. You have to do something to make it real, to make it happen.”

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Alphonse DeLachance January 22, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Finizio said on Friday that the organizers of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event told him that they were unaware of the executive order What a crock of $h&t! Bishop Benjamin K. Watts, pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church, thanked Finizio for pledging the funds. However, Watts also said he thought the city should make an effort to distinguish the march from other events. Yes they are special and the entire tax base should pick up yet additional costs for this non taxpaying entity. There are no more entitlements! What an outrageous statement from this man with his hand out. The St. Patrick's Day parade is a commemoration as well. It this an attack against the Irish of our society?
Felicia Hendersen January 22, 2013 at 03:25 PM
I have a dream that one day local houses of worship will have honest Deacons that also sit on the city council and will share with their congregation all that is going on within the city. Including their responsibility under the new executive orders. I have a dream that one day the alleged supporters of the memory of MLK will be honest and righteous and stop hiding behind excuses like we did no know about this. I have a dream that all this talk of we are different and should be treated differently will end and that a belief and practice of true equality will enter the hearts and souls of these people and flourish in our communities. That is what MLK truly stood for.
Felicia Hendersen January 22, 2013 at 03:31 PM
St. Patrick Little known facts: Two authentic letters from him survive, from which come the only generally accepted details of his life.[7] When he was about 16, he was captured from his home by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to Ireland as an ordained bishop in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
Felicia Hendersen January 22, 2013 at 03:34 PM
St. Patrick uses shamrock in an illustrative parable The Shamrock Legend (dating to 1726, according to the OED) also credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God.[69] For this reason, shamrocks are a central symbol for St Patrick’s Day. The shamrock had been seen as sacred in the pre-Christian days in Ireland. Due to its green color and overall shape, many viewed it as representing rebirth and eternal life. Three was a sacred number in the pagan religion and there were a number of "Triple Goddesses" in ancient Ireland, including Brigid, Ériu, and the Morrigan.
Felicia Hendersen January 22, 2013 at 03:36 PM
March 17, popularly known as St. Patrick's Day, is believed to be his death date and is the date celebrated as his feast day.[72] The day became a feast day in the universal church due to the influence of the Waterford-born Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding, as a member of the commission for the reform of the Breviary[73] in the early part of the 17th century.
Felicia Hendersen January 22, 2013 at 03:37 PM
"St. Patrick's Day is a commemoration” and should be treated as one by the city.
Debbie January 22, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Highly suggest organizations avoid parades or events involving beer or alcohol, painted downtown State Street (still visible years later), and pay the parade fee. Do not pickup the tab for these events City Council, New London taxpayers will agree, they are not celebratory or communtiy-wide events, just say "no".

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