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Anniversary of King's death marked at memorial

Thursday - 4/5/2012, 10:35am  ET

MLK death anniversary (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
After a series of speeches, dignitaries laid a wreath of flowers at the foot of the Stone of Hope, as spectators crowded around to watch. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
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Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A ceremony and candlelight vigil at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial marked the anniversary of the civil rights leader's death.

King was shot 44 years ago on April 4, 1968, and Wednesday was the first time it was commemorated at King's new namesake memorial along the Tidal Basin.

"There would not be a brother in public housing on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now without the death and blood of Martin Luther King Jr.," Georgetown professor and author Michael Eric Dyson told the cheering and applauding crowd gathered at the memorial. "No Obama without King."

Arun Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, said he thinks if King were still alive today, he would say people had failed him.

"I think it's time for us to wake up and do something so that the dream that both these people shared will not go wasted," Gandhi says.

"We have got to respect our people and love our people and look beyond the differences that exist between people."

"Today I encourage all of you to look around your homes, your communities, your country and the world and make a practical decision to live a life of peace," Memorial Foundation President Harry Johnson said.

"Choose to do something today and this week that will further the cause of peace. As Dr. King wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham, 'The time is always ripe to do what is right,'" said Johnson.

Mark Morial, president of the National Urban League, hopes a new April tradition is beginning.

"I hope as you do that today, this evening, is the beginning of what will be an annual time when people will come to this site in this glorious city to remember Dr. Martin Luther King," Morial said.

Following the speeches, a wreath of flowers was placed at the Stone of Hope, the 30-foot-tall likeness of King.

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