Published: Jan 21, 2013 05:26 PM
Modified: Jan 21, 2013 05:27 PM
Several hundred people at a Martin Luther King Day rally Monday heard state NAACP Vice President Curtis Gatewood call for a return to the streets.
“It is great to have King Day programs, but it is time for us to get out of the comfort zone and get back into the streets and join the fight for justice,” Gatewood said, drawing loud applause.
Specifically, Gatewood urged the crowd to join a “Hundred Thousand on Jones Street” demonstration Feb. 9 in Raleigh, but he also called for a rally Thursday morning in support of Stephanie Nickerson at the Durham County Judicial Building.
Nickerson faces misdemeanor charges of resisting and assaulting a police officer, but claims an officer beat her when police responded to a noise complaint Oct. 28. Thursday morning is her court date.
“Brutality is still alive and well. ... right here in your neighborhood,” Gatewood said.
The Raleigh march is aimed at the General Assembly which, he said, in the last hours of its 2012 session passed laws “detrimental to the very things Dr. King died for.
The rally where Gatewood spoke, at First Presbyterian Church, followed a march through downtown Durham from the N.C. Mutual Building on Chapel Hill Street.
The Rev. Warren Herndon, who led the march, said healing divisions in the nation and ending violence were particular concerns of the Unity March’s steering committee.
“Dr. King called on us to become peacemakers,” Herndon said. “We must become champions for stopping the violence.”
Banners and signs supporting Carlos Riley Jr. were prominent in the march. Riley is accused of shooting a police officer during a traffic stop on Dec. 18, but his supporters claim police have withheld information on the case and that his $1.5 million bond is unreasonable.
Ashley Reeves, who identified herself as Riley’s girlfriend, saidMartin Luther King would be sympathetic.
“He would be right here marching with us, too, if he was here,” she said.
Other marchers invoked King’s work on workers’ behalf..
“The last campaign he was working on, he died for garbage workers,” said Max Davis, a Durham city employee for 24 years.