About 300 people marched peacefully through downtown Spokane today commemorating the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The march was organized by the Spokane chapter of the NAACP and took participants from the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to the Lilac Bowl in Riverfront Park, under the watchful eyes of countless law enforcement officers.
Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, walked in the march before giving a speech at the park.
The march was organized in response to this year’s discovery of a bomb found at the Martin Luther King Day March on Jan. 17.
In early March, the FBI arrested Kevin Harpham and charged him with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered destructive device. Trial is set for May 31.
At the beginning of the march Jealous shook hands and answered questions from the crowd.
“It’s time to focus on the urgent need for a conversation about racism,” Jealous said.
Responding to a question about if the Inland Northwest is different - and more racist - than other places, Jealous said: “It certainly is very different to have a cyanide soaked bomb sitting there on a bench during a Martin Luther King Day march.”
Mayor Mary Verner, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich were at the gathering, along side local and state-wide NAACP leadership.
“This is our Spokane,” Verner told the crowd gathered in the Lilac Bowl. “Our message is that the people of Spokane will not be bullied or threatened. We will not accept acts of violence directed at people because of the color of their skin.