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MLK Day Brings Hundreds to Idaho Statehouse Amid Political Uncertainty

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- Attendees braved cold but clear weather to turn out for this year's MLK Day rally at the Idaho Capitol. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Attendees braved cold but clear weather to turn out for this year's MLK Day rally at the Idaho Capitol.
An air of anxiety charged this year's celebration of the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday morning—the last observance of MLK Day before the inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th president of the United States.

"In light of the presidential election, [MLK Day] is about supporting the minorities who are scared," said Kelsey White, referring to the swearing in of Trump as president Friday, Jan. 20, following a long campaign rife with racist and anti-immigrant sentiment.
- Ralia Devereux brought her children to Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations at the Idaho State Capitol. -  - BROOKLYN RIEPMA
  • Brooklyn Riepma
  • Ralia Devereux brought her children to Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations at the Idaho State Capitol.

As in years past, MLK Day activities included a student march down Capitol Boulevard, speeches on the steps, and additional speeches and music beneath the Statehouse rotunda.

Near the Capitol steps outside, Grace, 13, said King's legacy is about "remembering the changes he made for people," and "standing up for what you believe in." Britni McMurdie said it's about "civil liberties and standing up for the rights that are ours."

Politics cast a shadow over this year's celebration, with several describing President-elect Donald Trump as ambivalent to civil liberties. During the presidential campaign, Trump targeted people of color, the LGBT community, immigrants and the press for attack. For Jasmin Herrick, celebrating King's life is a reminder to "fight for justice, even if the consequences are dire."

"Everything [Trump] stands for is against Dr. King's values," said Chandra Regna, who spoke at the podium on the Capitol steps. The path forward, said Clarissa Abidog, is "not falling into the comfort zone so many Americans are accustomed to. This is not a time to be silent."
- Abuba Carr sought to raise awareness of the tense political situation in Gambia. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Abuba Carr sought to raise awareness of the tense political situation in Gambia.

Trump will be sworn in as president on Friday, Jan. 20.

Abuba Carr had a different concern—the political situation in his home country of Gambia. An exchange student at Boise State University, he said he worries outgoing Gambian President Yahya Jammeh will not step down despite having been voted out of office.

"This is the best way for me to stand up for this since I can't stand with my people back home," he said.

Though MLK Day is a federal holiday, the Legislature remained in session. Inside the Statehouse, attendees gathered around the atrium beneath the rotunda to hear Lt. Gov. Brad Little read a proclamation in honor of Idaho Human Rights Day—the name lawmakers gave the third Monday in January following tense debate over King's legacy. Idaho was among the last states to recognize the holiday in 1990.

Attendees also listened to a keynote address by Boise State Engineering Professor Ahmed Zaid, who told the audience to be on guard for encroaching inequality and that more work remains to be done in the fight for civil rights.

"Although we have made great strides toward a color-blind America, the journey is not over yet," he said.
- Clarissa Abidog (left) and Chandra Reyna (right) said MLK Day is a time to consider the impending presidency of Donald Trump. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Clarissa Abidog (left) and Chandra Reyna (right) said MLK Day is a time to consider the impending presidency of Donald Trump.

During Zaid's remarks, a mild disturbance was caused by a man carrying an All Lives Matter sign. The man was approached by MLK Day participant Louis Sheppard, and the two discussed the incident.

"Today's about Dr. King. He didn't think about that when he made that sign," Sheppard said.

Wrapping up the celebration was Benjamin Earwicker, with the Idaho Human Rights Commission, who delivered a call to action.

"I would encourage every one of us to do whatever it is that we find to do to support the work of civil rights and human rights in Idaho, in Boise, across the state, and across the country," he said.


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