MLK activists march under heavy State guard

MLK Day was less eventful in the Twin Cities than in years past because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 31st annual General Mills MLK Holiday Breakfast was delivered via virtual platform.

The General Mills Holiday Breakfast program featured a panel that included MLK’s daughter Bernice King and Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund. Bernice King said that in the future women will lead the way. “Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe you must become its soul,” she said. “We do have to save the soul of the country.”

In St. Paul, a group of activists called a protest in keeping with the tradition of hosting rallies outside of the celebrations sponsored by the State of Minnesota and local corporations that stress MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the need for service. The St. Paul rally acknowledged the contributions and philosophy of the more radical King.

The rally, which began in the parking lot of St. Paul Central, was kicked off with a rousing rendition of the Negro National Anthem sung by Twin Cities songstress Ashley DuBose. The inspirational anthem was penned by James Weldon Johnson and is also known to some as simply “Lift every voice and sing.”

 “We are continuing the work of Martin Luther King, but we are being targeted, harassed and arrested,” said local anti-police violence activist Monique Cullars Doty. “We are trying to continue his legacy.” 

One speaker reminded the audience that there are misconceptions about who MLK was and that “you don’t get murdered by the State for being a liberal.”

Cullars-Doty called out Amy Klobuchar for taking part in the MLK Breakfast while having a hand in the apparently wrongful conviction of Myon Burrell. While calling Klobuchar “hypocritical,” she demanded that she drop the charges against Burrell. Cullers Doty also pointed out that elected officials had “the nerve” to recognize King while enforcing policies that were antithetical to the philosophy and positions of the civil and human rights leader.

Klobuchar remarked during her speech at the General Mills Breakfast that “the time is always right to do what is right.” Other speakers at the General Mills virtual event included King’s daughter Bernice King, Minnesota Senator Tina Smith, Governor Tim Walz, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

Klobuchar came under fire during her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination for her involvement in the controversial conviction of Burrell. In her remarks at the General Mills MLK breakfast she also said, “Now is the time for us to respond to systemic racism with systemic change and collectively raise our voices.”

The one hundred-plus rally turned into a march as they proceeded from the parking lot and marched down Lexington Avenue, eventually marching down University Avenue and returning to Central High. Heavily armed Minnesota state troopers and Minnesota National Guard lined the entrance to the I-94 freeway.

 But organizers insisted they had no intention to enter the freeway, and they took issue with the heavy police presence at the entrance of the highway, which made it appear that blocking the highway was part of their plans.

Nekima Levy Armstrong told the crowd that the double standard of how the law is enforced, which was on full display during the January 6 U.S. Capitol riot, is not new. “How do they claim to be about law and order but go around breaking up peaceful protests?” she asked. “Just like they made a mockery of the law in the [19]50’s and 60’s, they are a mockery of the law in the 21st century.”