Some members of Congress have been out greeting constituents, only days after an Arizona representative was shot and critically wounded at a similar outreach event. One such recent venue was a holiday parade in Los Angeles, celebrating the legacy of the nation’s most revered civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. King himself was the victim of an assassin - gunned down more than forty years ago. A congresswoman and other public officials at the parade reflected on the slain civil rights leader's message in the wake of the Arizona shootings.
High school bands march the streets of Los Angeles - a common celebration on the day the nation marks the holiday celebrating King and his message of non-violence.. A local member of the California assembly rides along, waving to constituents who line the street.
This comes only a little more than a week after the shootings in Arizona that killed six people and injured 13 others, leaving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life.
But despite the Arizona tragedy, events like these are an important part of the work of a public official, says California Congresswoman Judy Chu. “I really think that we can’t let incidents like that stop us from participating in democracy I think we shouldn’t let it stop anybody, but especially those of us that have been elected need to get out there and need to deal with the public. Now, it is true that we need to do it with a little bit more caution,” she said.
Chu says members of Congress are committed to meeting publicly with those they represent, but are working to develop new security guidelines.
Civic and political leaders have always faced risks, perhaps none more than King, an activist who spoke out boldly with a message of equality.
“I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character!,” King said.
Los Angeles City Council member Herb Wesson says King’s words still resonate. “His message was always judge people based on their abilities, not on the color of their skin, that everyone should be included, be fair. And I think he’d be very proud today, but he’d also be telling us we still have work to do. All you have to do is to look at Tucson, Arizona, and you recognize that we still have a way to go,” he said.
King was shot by an assassin in Memphis, where he had gone to support striking sanitation workers. Alvin Turner was one of the workers, and he heard King’s final speech. He says it was inspiring. “Of course, it was sad, his mountaintop speech, and he said he had been to the promised land, and he peeped over, and he saw the promised land, but he might not get there with us,” Turner said.
“I just want to do God’s will and he allowed me to go up to the mountain and I’ve looked over and seen the promised land, I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land!,” King said.
Local officials say the message of respectful dialogue and peaceful engagement is more relevant now than ever.