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The #ReclaimMLK movement

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Photo by Erin Sullivan, Orlandoweekly.com

While some cities around the country reported some inconveniences and disruptions by protestors who were trying to make their voices heard on Martin Luther King Day, the Black Lives Matter candlelight vigil in downtown Orlando outside police headquarters this week was quiet. Rather than anger, it reflected sadness, solidarity and hope for change. Participants from organizations like Dream Defenders and Organize Now read the final words of some of the most recent victims of police brutality and abuse, including Sandra Bland and Eric Garner, and after a closing prayer, attendees raised candles overhead and joined in a quiet rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

The goal, organizers say, was to call for the demilitarization of police forces across the country, ask law-enforcement agencies to adopt best practices to curb conflicts between police and the community and to demand affordable housing and support for a living wage in the United States.

The event was one of many held in cities across the country in honor of MLK Day, designed to reclaim the legacy of the slain civil rights activist. The #ReclaimMLK movement wants to distance itself from what it says is a sanitized image of a man who wasn’t about accepting the status quo but about disrupting it. He embraced the spirit of civil disobedience and protest and used it to push uncomfortable conversations about racial inequality into the public discourse.

If MLK were alive today, they say, he would be on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement and agitating for changes to an unjust system. He wouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines.

“The Rev. Martin Luther King was not simply a dreamer, a martyr or a preacher,” Organize Now’s Ida Eskamani told the crowd who’d gathered downtown. “He was a revolutionary black activist.”

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