Activists Mark MLK Jr. Birthday With Call for Peace

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Peace activists celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth date Thursday by calling for an end to war in Iraq and urging Nevada's political leaders to carry on his dream for world peace.

About 30 people sang "We Shall Overcome" on the steps of the U.S. courthouse in Reno in front of 3,000 brightly colored, paper "peace cranes" they presented to the local offices of Nevada's congressional delegation.

Some carried signs that read "Bushs appear presidential only at war" and "War for re-election." A pair of backers of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, held up placards in support of his campaign as a "peace candidate" for president.

"We want our troops home safe," said Lisa Stiller of the Reno Anti-War Coalition, which organized the rally along with Citizen Alert.

"We want the killing to stop. We want our country to focus on human needs rather than power and oil," she said.

The hand-folded origami peace cranes have become an international symbol of "peace and nuclear abolition," said John Hadder of Citizen Alert.

"In recognition of peace and nuclear disarmament, today on this 75th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., we honor his vision for peace and justice," Hadder said.

Volunteers took about 100 hours over the past five months to craft 5,000 of the multi-colored "peace cranes" in a Japanese tradition furthered by a young girl, Sadako Sasaki, in the wake of World War II.

Sadako was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and by age 11 was diagnosed with Leukemia, "the atom bomb" disease, Hadder said.

She began folding cranes with the goal of completing 1,000 to earn a wish for better health, according to the tradition. She completed 644 before she died, but her friends finished the task as part of a new tradition folding peace cranes in a wish for nuclear disarmament.

In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a peace crane was erected in Hiroshima Peace Park.

"We ask you be mindful of the dream of Martin Luther King and the message of Sadako," Hadder said Thursday.

"Over 50 years from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we are still in the shadow of nuclear weapons," he said.

Hadder criticized Bush's plans for new testing of nuclear weapons and development of "mini-nukes" that can be deployed in the battlefield, a move Hadder said would "blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons."

"The Bush administration has shown a clear aggressiveness and unilateral approach to foreign policy and appears to be willing to use nuclear weapons," he said.

Stillar said U.S. soldiers continue to fight a war in Iraq "that never should have been started."

"Some 495 Americans have already died there, most of them after President Bush declared `the war over,'" she said.

"Thousands of civilians have died. And what was accomplished?" she said. "No weapons of mass destruction were found. No ties to al-Qaida were discovered. Iraq is in chaos"

In addition to the 3,000 cranes in Reno, the other 2,000 were being delivered to lawmakers in southern Nevada and in Washington D.C., Hadder said.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was the only member of the delegation who sent a representative to the rally in Reno Thursday.

"We share a vision of the world where all people can live in peace and safety. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a threat to that peace," said Paul Thompson, Reid's northern Nevada representative.

Jeff Knutsen, state coordinator for Kucinich in Nevada, handed out campaign material. He said Democratic front-runner Howard Dean shares Kucinich's support for an end to war in Iraq but that Dean also advocates continued U.S. occupation of the country.

"Dennis is the only peace candidate because he is the only one against occupation, and occupation is war," Knutsen said. Extended Web Coverage

Timeline of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life

  • Michael King, later known as Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929.

  • September 20, 1944, King began his freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

  • August 6, 1946, the Atlanta Constitution published King's letter to the editor stating that black people "are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens."

  • In January and February of 1947 King's article, "The Purpose of Education" was published in the Morehouse student paper, the Maroon Tiger.

  • 1948 was a busy year for Martin Luther King, Jr. In February he was ordained and appointed as the assistant pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

  • In June of 1948, King received his B.A. in Sociology from Morehouse College.

  • In September that same year he began his studies at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Penn.

  • May 1951, King graduated from Crozer with a Bachelor of Divinity degree, and delivered the Valedictory Address at commencement.

  • In September of 1951, he began his graduate studies in systematic theology at Boston University.

  • On June 18, 1953, Martin Luther King, Jr. married Coretta Scott near Marion, Ala.

  • February 28, 1954, King delivers the sermon, "Rediscovering Lost Values" at the Second Baptist Church in Detroit.

  • On September 1, 1954, King begins his pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

  • June 5, 1955 Martin Luther King earns his PhD. in Systematic Theology from Boston University.

  • On December 5, 1955 King becomes the president of MIA, the Montgomery Improvement Association.

  • In February of 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. appeared on the cover of Time magazine, as Time’s Man of the Year.

  • During the spring of 1963, King and his staff guided mass demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, where local white police officials were known from their anti-black attitudes.

  • Subsequent mass demonstrations in many communities culminated in a march on August 28, 1963, that attracted more than 250,000 protesters to Washington, D. C. Addressing the marchers from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" oration.

  • In December of 1964, King was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while seeking to assist a garbage workers' strike in Memphis.

  • He died revered by many for his martyrdom on behalf of non-violence, and condemned by others for his militancy and insurgent views.

Source: (The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University)