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King’s widow issues call for world peace

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ATLANTA — Possible military action in Iraq and affirmative action were on people's minds as they commemorated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday across the country.

King's widow, Coretta Scott King, addressed a crowd of about 1,000 on Monday at King's former pulpit, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, calling on world leaders to settle their differences peacefully.

"We commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. as a great champion of peace who warned us that war was a poor chisel for carving out a peaceful tomorrow," King said. "We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. Martin said, 'True peace is not just the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.' "

The civil rights leader would have turned 74 last Wednesday. He was assassinated in 1968.

Atlanta's annual King Day march — touted as the largest in the nation — also included anti-war protests, with some marchers carrying signs that read: "War is not the answer," and "Drop Bush, not bombs."

In Los Angeles, an estimated 150,000 people lined Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for a parade led by Gov. Gray Davis and the mayors of both Los Angeles and San Francisco. A few dozen anti-war protesters held signs denouncing a possible war with Iraq.

In San Francisco, some 2,000 to 3,000 marchers converged on the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for a celebration of King's life.

In Louisville, Ky., King was remembered with a parade and religious services. There also was a demonstration protesting a shooting in that city last month of a handcuffed black man by a white police officer.

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Joe Lieberman talked about King's importance to history in separate appearances.

In Detroit, Lieberman said he was drawn to Michigan in part because of the controversy surrounding University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policies.

"Until we reach that day where everyone is truly judged as Dr. King appealed for . . . by the content of their character, we have a responsibility to take affirmative steps to give everyone an equal opportunity to realize the American dream," he said.

Edwards also questioned President Bush's stance on affirmative action during a speech at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

"We should support efforts that increase diversity and put an end to systems, like legacy admissions, that give special preference to the most advantaged at the expense of diversity," Edwards said.

In Ohio, Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called for more activism during a speech at Wittenberg University in Springfield.

"Fewer blacks working today is an indictment of our time and our failure to keep the movement going," Bond said. "Today we often look for someone to lead us. Yesterday it was the people's movement. Those were the days when the people chose the president, not the Supreme Court."

In York, Pa., five members of the Learned, Miss.-based Nationalist Movement marched in opposition to King Day and memorialized a white police officer killed during the city's 1969 race riots.

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear or on horseback patrolled the streets or kept at bay about 60 onlookers and protesters, some of whom tried to drown out Barrett's speech by shouting and chanting.

"We said 'No' to affirmative action whether it's Martin Luther King trying to win favoritism for minorities or protesters trying to shout me down," the group's leader, Richard Barrett, said.

A small group of anti-war protesters interrupted the annual King Day ceremony at the state Capitol in Hartford, Conn., dropping a large anti-war banner from a second-floor balcony. There were no arrests.

"A nation that spends more money on military defense than social uplift is approaching spiritual death," the banner read, quoting King. A second banner was later dropped reading: "No War on Iraq."