President Barack Obama said Sunday that Martin Luther King Jr. would have approved of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement.
Speaking at the dedication for the late civil rights leader's memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Obama drew parallels between King's sense of justice and the demonstrations in New York City against corporate greed.
“If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there,” Obama said, according to the Washington Times. “Those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as divisive. They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing. Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all.”
Watch Obama's remarks below. Comments about the Occupy Wall Street movement begin around the 15:45 mark.
Other black community leaders used the ceremony to make more overtly partisan statements.
The Washington Times reported:
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young told the crowd at the memorial that the GOP was to blame for the recent banking crisis, tracing it back to the repeal in 1999 of provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated investment banks from commercial banks.
“Republicans changed that, and now this thing is all messed up,” Mr. Young said.
The repeal was approved by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate, including a majority of Democrats in both chambers, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Young also urged the audience to vote for Mr. Obama in 2012, saying the president’s re-election is needed to ensure economic justice, “just like we won voting rights.”
“The first step of that is to keep a person in office who basically has your interests at heart,” Mr. Young said.
Rev. Jesse Jackson called King a "living force" even today, and said if he were still alive, King would be "in the middle of the struggle."
“Dr. King would make a case for we must measure our character by the way we treat those on the hull of the ship, not just those on the deck of the ship," Jackson said.
Speaking directly to the Occupy protesters, Jackson urged them to remain nonviolent, stay disciplined, focused and fight for economic and racial justice.
King's daughter, Rev. Bernice King, also tied the dedication ceremony directly to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Christian Post notes her claim that God may have used an earthquake and a hurricane to arrange the alignment:
The dedication ceremony had been delayed due to the earthquake that struck Virginia and Hurricane Irene that battered the East Coast in August. Bernice King suggested that those events may have been brought by God so that the dedication ceremony could tie itself to the OWS movement.
“Perhaps God wanted us to move beyond the dream into action, and maybe we were unable to dedicate this monument on August 28 because of that and maybe He's saying to us, it's time to readjust,” Bernice King said.
Rev. Al Sharpton, who led a march in Washington D.C. Saturday, said "just as Dr. King talked about occupying Washington, just like those occupying Wall Street, we are going to occupy the voting booth."
"We are here to say we are going to continue marching," the MSNBC host said. "You will not undo the King dream. You will not take away the Voting Rights Act. You will not take away the Civil Rights Act. You will not cut back on Medicaid and Medicare to bargain down those rich trillionaires that that ran this country into deficit."
"This is not about Obama, this is about our mama," Sharpton said, repeating the same statement he made Saturday. "We will vote like we never voted before."