Tucson takes time to remember MLK - Tucson News Now

Tucson takes time to remember MLK

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

By: Bud Foster

"It's been a long struggle," we heard over and over again among the thousand gathered at the Reid Park band shell to mark the annual holiday celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr.

What they mean by a long struggle began in 1986 when Governor Bruce Babbitt signed an executive order to make King's birthday a holiday.

Within a year, acting on a campaign promise, newly elected governor Evan Mechan recinded the order taking it away.

That began a tumultuous time in Arizona history.

The Super Bowl was taken away by the NFL costing the state $500 million.

Dozens of big name musical acts canceled tour stops in Arizona as a protest.

Conventions were canceled.

A tourism boycott hit Arizona businesses hard.

Voters first rejected two propositions in 1990 which would have installed a holiday.

Finally, in 1992, voters passed it by an overwhelming margin.

Tucson began a small march in downtown in 1987 to protest Mecham's action.

They have been marching ever since.

This is the 27th year supporters have held a Martin Luther King rally and marched.

The march started at the University at about 9:30 a.m. More than a thousand people marched from the University to Reid Park. It took about an hour and half for the march.

We were told this march is for the young people who may not have been around in 1968 and may not have experienced the Civil Rights struggles of the 50's and 60's.

Today, they gather so they can be taught and remember those times.

Those ones who fought those battles are older now, retired, or gone. They want to make sure the younger generation takes up the cause, because they say there is still a long ways to go.

"We need to keep the legacy," said Donna Liggins, event organizer. "Our youth needs to do that."

Nowhere is the most recent part of the Civil Rights struggle more evident than Arizona, which is why the gathering began with a handful of protestors in downtown Tucson in 1987 has grown to a thousand strong on this day, still searching for equality.

"So until we can get all that completed, we can sit down like brothers and sisters," said Liggins."Then the struggle is not over."

It's a time to remember and reflect on why they do this year after year.

"I want to see all of us get along, all of us to have the same opportunity," said Liggins "All of us have a level playing field. That's what I want to see and that was his dream. That we have equality at all levels."

"We don't have a level field now," she says.

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