A youthful, multiracial crowd of several hundred honored Dr. Martin Luther King's memory Monday with a short march down N. Broad Street and a rally calling for united action to stop school violence.
Organized by the Philadelphia Student Union, the "Martin Luther King Day 2010 Call to Witness and Action" was supported by more than 20 organizations, including Asian Americans United, Enon Tabernacle Church, and the United Taxi Workers Alliance.
After several speeches on the steps of School District headquarters, the crowd walked five blocks to a rally at Arch St. United Methodist Church. The lively crowd shouted chants like "The students united will never be defeated," and they carried signs reading "Safe schools for everyone," "Stop school violence," and "Stand up against injustice."
The student-led rally at the church included student activists and political leaders like Joe Hoeffel, candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, newly elected District Attorney Seth Williams, and State Rep. Vanessa Brown.
Student Duong-Nghe Ly of South Philadelphia High School, who was active in the Asian student boycott of the school last month, was one of many speakers putting out a call for a multiracial nonviolent movement to address school violence. "Students from South Philadelphia High School have been working together with people from all races in the community to figure out how to improve the climate and safety of our school so that events like the one of December 3 will never happen again," he said.
Quoting Dr. King, he said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
Student Union activists said the event was just the beginning of a campaign to end youth violence and the school-to-prison pipeline. They plan to organize thousands of young people to take a pledge of nonviolence.