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Justin Garner of Huntsville snaps a photo of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at Kelly Ingram Park on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 in Birmingham, Ala. He came to Birmingham to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute across the street. MLK Day events also included the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march through the streets of Birmingham and a rally that followed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. (AP Photo/The Birmingham News, Joe Songer) MAGS OUT
Speeches, marches honor Martin Luther King, Jr

By PHILLIP LUCAS

Associated Press

First Published Jan 20 2014 09:52 am • Last Updated Jan 20 2014 12:27 pm

ATLANTA - Hundreds of people filled Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Monday to remember and reflect on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., one of many events across the nation to honor the slain civil rights leader.

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The service at Ebenezer featured prayers, songs, music and speakers. Across the country, there were also speeches, parades, marches and community service projects to honor King, an Atlanta native.

About 50 years ago today, King had just appeared on the cover of Time magazine as its Man of the Year, and the nation was on the cusp of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But many of the themes of the civil rights struggle, such a as poverty, violence and voting rights, still resonate with people.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said there were not many states that can boast a native son that merits a national holiday before saying, "but we Georgians can."

Deal said this year he would work with state legislators to find an appropriate way to honor the Nobel Peace Prize winner at the Georgia Capitol, which drew a standing ovation from the audience. He did not give any specifics, but civil rights leaders have suggested a statue at the state Capitol.


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"I think that more than just saying kind thoughts about him we ought to take action ourselves," said Deal, a Republican. "That's how we embed truth into our words. I think it's time for Georgia's leaders to follow in Dr. King's footsteps and take action, too."

Deal also touched on criminal justice reforms his administration has tried to make, including drug and mental health courts and community-based services to keep non-violent criminals and young people out of prison.

Vice President Joe Biden addressed the National Action Network's MLK Breakfast, urging them to protect voting rights.

"Let me remind you all, it all rests ultimately on the ballot box, so keep the faith, or as my grandmom would say, 'No, Joey, go spread the faith.' It's time to spread it," Biden said.

New York City's new Mayor Bill de Blasio marked the day by talking about economic inequality, saying it was "closing doors for hard-working people in this city and all over this country."

"We have a city sadly divided between those with opportunity, with the means to fully partake of that opportunity, and those whose dreams of a better life are being deferred again and again," he told an audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

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