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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rally to feature NAACP leader

Intent is to counter history of hate

The head of the nation’s largest civil rights organization will lead a march in Spokane on Sunday to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed April 4, 1968.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will speak at the Demand Justice and Promote Peace event, which will include a march from the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to Riverfront Park.

“We feel very privileged that he is going to come in,” said V. Anne Smith, president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter.

In addition, Oscar Eason Jr., president of the NAACP Alaska, Oregon and Washington State-Area Conference, will be a speaker. The event starts at 3 p.m.

Spokane’s annual march celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Jan. 17 was marred by the discovery of a bomb planted in a backpack along the march route.

Earlier this month, the FBI arrested Stevens County resident Kevin Harpham, who has been charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

A trial date of May 31 has been set for Harpham, who is in custody at the Spokane County Jail.

Sgt. Jason Hartman, special events coordinator for the Spokane Police Department, said the department will be staffing Sunday’s event, but for security reasons, he could not disclose whether special precautions would be taken.

According to an NAACP statement, Spokane was chosen for Sunday’s march because Washington and North Idaho “are well-known for their history of white supremacist activities.”

The organization “plans to take direct action by showing NAACP support for peace, freedom, civil and human rights in an environment where it would appear that excessive racial hatred and discontinuity still exists.”

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner on Monday encouraged participation in the event and support for the work of the NAACP.

“The Spokane I know is a loving, accepting place that believes in equality,” Verner said. “As a community, we must continue to visibly stand up against racism and hatred.”

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