Wednesday 23 January 2019

Campaigners observe minute of silence in Dublin for Martin Luther King on 50th anniversary of his assassination

Martin Luther King Photo: AP Photo/file
Martin Luther King Photo: AP Photo/file
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Campaigners observed a minute of silence at precisely 6:01pm today when Nobel Peace Prize laureate and American civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis exactly 50 years ago.

A small gathering of community activists stood in the driving rain at the Famine statues memorial at Custom House Quay in Dublin in solemn tribute to the Baptist minister who was murdered at Memphis’ Lorraine Hotel after supporting a strike of sanitation workers for a decent wage.

Speaking at the ceremony, Chargé d’Affaires at the American Embassy in Dublin, Reece Smyth, said despite Dr King’s death at the age of just 39, he left a legacy that ‘changed America forever.”

“From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King inspired a movement that stirred the men and women of all backgrounds to become foot soldiers for justice. His leadership gave them the courage to refuse the limitations of the day and fight for the prospect of tomorrow,” he said.

“Because of that hopeful vision, because of Dr Martin Luther King’s courage and moral strength, barricades in America began to fall, bigotry began to fade and new doors of opportunity began to open for an entire generation and those to follow.”

Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry, who also addressed the ceremony, said there are great similarities between Dr King’s struggle to end poverty and racism in America and the challenges faced in modern Ireland today.

“Martin Luther King wanted an America where everyone, black and white, no matter what their colour, could live together, be respected and be valued and have equal opportunities,” he told

“I think that’s similar in Ireland. We have a society that is extremely unequal economically, which is segregated by housing, where children are divided by education and I think we need to work towards a more just and a more equal society where everybody has the same opportunities, everybody has the same respect from people, no matter what their status or economic income.”

Dublin Lord Mayor Mícheál Mac Donncha said: “It’s very fitting that here we are in the north inner city beside the great hunger memorial that this is the place where we hold our event. On that day in 1968 the world lost an inspirational leader, a true leader who created not simply followers but other leaders. A man who believed in the empowerment of people through education, through community and through activism.”

“On this day in 1968 the life of Martin Luther King was destroyed, but his message, his inspiration, his power to motivate and to activate was not destroyed, it is with us still.”

The ceremony opened with a rousing rendition of American folk singer Woodie Guthrie’s iconic ‘This Land is Your Land’ by refugee, immigrant and local children from the Neighbourhood Youth Project and closed with the hymn “We Shall Overcome”, punctuated by recordings of Dr King’s iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ and his famous “I Have Been to the Moutaintop” speech delivered the day before he was killed.

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