Bay Area honors Martin Luther King Jr.

OAKLAND (KTVU & BCN) -- The Bay Area paused Monday to remember Martin Luther King Jr. on the federal holiday set aside to honor the slain civil rights leader.

Thousands of people shut down several downtown Oakland streets during a march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And in San Francisco, celebrants trekked from the city's Caltrain Station to Yerba Buena Gardens.

The Oakland march began at 11 a.m. with a rally at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, located at 14th Street and Broadway. Marchers then traveled up Broadway and then onto 27th Street, leading to Grand Avenue.

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The peaceful march included drummers and dance performances. By about 2:15 p.m., marchers had reached the Pergola at Lake Merritt, where the march concluded.

The march was organized in part by the Oakland-based group Anti Police Terror Project.

According to the group, the march marks the beginning of a week of a series of actions to resist President-elect Donald Trump, leading up to his inauguration on Friday.

"This year we are focused on immigration rights, protection of our Muslim brothers and sisters, women's reproductive rights, loving LGBTQ sisters, brothers and siblings, and the defense of black life," the group said in a statement posted on a Facebook event page for the march.

Cat Brooks, spokeswoman for the police terror project, said the march was an effort to reclaim the legacy of MLK.

"This also kicks off 120 hours of direct action," Brooks said. "So we go from here to the inauguration."

The group is planning multiple local events that include film screenings and vigils to be held in the days leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

"The most important message of today is that this is Day 1 of work that we have to do every single day for the next four years," Brooks said.

"We have to make a statement that is more in like the image and thoughts of Dr. King as opposed to what’s coming out of Washington now," said Denise Gums, who joined in the Oakland march.

Some parents said they brought their children to the event to teach them that MLK was more than one speech, but rather a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.

"It’s important that we don’t celebrate the holiday (just) as a day to go shopping or take time off, but really a day of action," said Angelica Jongco, a mother and civil rights activist. "Now more than ever it’s important to teach our kids justice, right from wrong and the legacy of Martin Luther King."

A light police presence was seen traveling both ahead and behind marchers as they walked through the streets. Police had asked drivers to avoid the area.

Morcom Rose Garden welcomes volunteers

On MLK Day at Morcom Rose Garden, Monday was a not a day off -- but a day to help. 

That help included weeding, pruning and getting the rose garden and its 3,500 roses back in shape for spring.

It was one of dozens of Oakland parks where volunteers worked to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the day set aside to pay tribute to the slain civil rights leader.

"It's a great reminder there are little things you can do to to give back right around the corner," said volunteer Adebia Entoso.

The civil rights leader  once said quote: "life's most persistant and urgent question is, what are you doing for others."

Now, some 50 years later, there's an answer.

"Martin Luther King's most important legacy is service any way shape or form. Whether you are mentoring, helping beautify the area or any other type of service," said volunteer Khaaleedah Smith.

Those here spanned generations.

"I'm 88-years-old and my back is giving out," said volunteer Arvi Dorsey. "But i love it."

Across town, dozens of volunteers were providing the Oakland animal shelter with a landscaping face-lift.

Some parents just wanted to pass down Dr. King's message.

"It's important for young people to realize to make a community stronger you have to give out and be part of what everyone else is doing," said Ergon Terplan.

"I think helping people and trying to help is good to do," said Kaliopi Terplan, 7.

Oakland city gardeners say the volunteer's did in a day what would have taken weeks for a gardener to do.  

"You could just see in a timeline how fast the work got done," said Herman Miller, a supervisor at the park. "And it was beautiful."

While many people attend rallies, demonstrations and marches on MLK Day, people here say helping others is also important.

Or as Dorsey summed it up:

"What would you do if you weren't doing it," she said. "That's what you have to ask yourself."

San Francisco celebrations honor MLK

Marchers traveled from San Francisco's Caltrain Station to Yerba Buena Gardens today for a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Many arrived on board a special Celebration Train traveling from San Jose to San Francisco, with stops in Palo Alto and San Mateo. The march was scheduled to leave the Caltrain station around 11 a.m.

Today's events at Yerba Buena Gardens, with the theme "Justice in the Beloved Community," will include a social justice panel at 1 p.m. in conversation with journalist and performer Al Letson.

There will also be a community health festival and live music and poetry readings.

Caltrain's special Martin Luther King Jr. Day train, which is run in conjunction with the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation is no longer called the Freedom Train.

The organization that previously sponsored the Freedom Train, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association, halted its sponsorship in 2015 due to low ridership and withdrew rights to the name.

KTVU reporters Cristina Rendon and Rob Roth contributed to this report.

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