Marchers wave signs and banners on MLK Day in Spokane/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS

Spokane honors MLK with rally, march, call for unity

The MLK Day Annual Unity Rally and March had a tense start Monday morning when Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash) spoke to a massive crowd at the Spokane Convention Center, calling for the need to heal divisions and fight racism by coming together.

A man waves a sign at the MLK March in Spokane/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS

The crowd responded to McMorris Rodgers by booing her off the stage and chanting, “Save our healthcare!”

On Jan.13 she released a statement calling for the repeal of Obamacare.

Freda Gandy, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, scolded the audience for the protest, noting that children were watching and not aware of the politics involved. She asked attendees to be a unifying force by following King’s example. This upset some, who said peaceful resistance was part of King’s legacy.

The event continued with Rev. Happy Watkin’s traditional rendition of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech before the crowd — probably close to 1,000 people — together paraded through downtown Spokane.

Rev. Chris Snow of North Hill Christian Church was glad so many people came out, faced the cold and participated in the rally and march.

“It’s important to come together as a community and uplift those things that unite us as a community,” he said. “Martin Luther King was a prime example of that.”

A November Gallup poll reported that 77 percent of Americans view the country as being divided over key values — an all-time high. That same poll showed the United States is split on whether President-Elect Donald Trump will unite or divide the nation after he takes office next week.

Hundreds marched through downtown Spokane on MLK Day/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS

Julie Banks, a member of Origin Church, said she doesn’t participate in the MLK rally and march every year, but felt called to partake this year to, “affirm the message of Christ.”

That is, Banks said, to stand with the marginalized and fight for justice.

“I’m delighted to be here,” she said. “And I’m looking forward to seeing what else we can do throughout the year to keep the message alive.”

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About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. She serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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