D.C.

March on Washington: Crowds pour into city for celebrations

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Prepare for huge crowds on the National Mall Saturday for events leading up to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The actual anniversary is Wednesday, but guests are pouring in from out of town to take part in activities over the next few days.

A wax figure of Martin Luther King Jr. was unveiled Friday. Photo: Sam Ford/WJLA
Photo: Archives Foundation via Flickr

The civil rights community is ecstatic this week and they’re pouring into the city from all over.

Literally hot off the presses, hundreds and hundreds of t-shirts are being made to be worn by the student body of Friendship Collegiate Academy in Northeast D.C. They have been robo-dialing all day to let it be known that they’re serious about what they’re doing.

"A lot of the things that were issues back fifty years ago are still issues now,” says China Green.

And as the clock ticks down to Saturday, barricades are going up. Road closures will also be in place for all cars from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Rock Creek Parkway between Virginia Avenue and Parkway Drive; Independence Avenue between 15th and 23rd St., Lincoln Memorial Circle, Henry Bacon Dr. to 23rd St., and the Memorial Bridge.

But all the closures aren’t shutting down the anticipation.

Sheila Hollie-Richardson and her husband Harold are returning, half a century older, with a new resolve. They are here for a very specific reason: to be a presence for those who cannot be there.

"For people who cannot come... I have to come out here for my daughters, my grandson, my granddaughter,” said Harold Richardson.

The march will start at the Lincoln Memorial and then head to the MLK Memorial. It is advised to enter at 17th Street near the WWII memorial, and then weave down Independence Ave. to ultimately end up at the Washington Monument.

Tim Black of Chicago looks back to when he led 2,000 to the march in 1963, and he says he's not tired yet.

“I’m 94, but I’m not giving up simply because of age. The mission of Dr. King is the thing that I’m dedicated to pursue,” he says.

At Freedom Plaza on Friday, the rain kept many away, but the show went on with music and speeches to urge the next generation of leaders to push forward. Mayor Vincent Gray was among the speakers.

A wax figure of Martin Luther King was unveiled at the Willard Hotel to remind history buffs and others that Dr. King stayed at the hotel the night before the march. And while they’re not claiming he wrote his "I Have a Dream" speech there, he did work on the speech at the hotel.

One of Dr. King's civil rights colleagues, C.T. Vivian, is in Washington for the celebration.

“Some people say 'Why do you talk about Martin King so much?' I say 'Because without Martin king, none of us would be where we are now.'"

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