2020 Democratic contenders link arms in MLK Jr. Day march

APTOPIX_MLK_Day_South_Carolina_93211 Democratic presidential candidates US. Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, I-Vt. and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, right, D-Mass., shake hands as U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, center, D-Hawaii, watches at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day services at Zion Baptist Church, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
APTOPIX_Election_2020_MLK_Day_82962 Democratic presidential rivals Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders link arms during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_19135 Most of the Democrats seeking their party's presidential nomination march in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_04988 Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders chat during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_24839 Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar stand together before a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_36439 Most of the Democrats seeking their party's presidential nomination gather for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer service Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Former New York City Mayor and presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg walks with supporters along the route of the Little Rock “marade” marking the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Little Rock, Arkansas on January 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_66285 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stands at the South Carolina Statehouse before a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_14379 Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D--Mass., speaks at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_44431 Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer speaks at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_02269 Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_73734 Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_MLK_Day_04292 Democratic presidential contenders, from left, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, Deval Patrick and Steyer's wife Kat Taylor, second from right, link arms during a Martin Luther King Jr. march on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks with supporters after speaking at an oyster roast campaign event on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Orangeburg, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at We The People 2020: Protecting Our Democracy After Citizens United at Curate, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidates US. Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, I-Vt. and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, right, D--Mass., shake hands as greets U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, center, D-Hawaii at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day services at Zion Baptist Church, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
MLK_Day_South_Carolina_39403 US. Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, I-Vt.,greets U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, center, D-Hawaiiand Sen. Elizabeth Warren, right, D--Mass., speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day services at Zion Baptist Church, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
MLK_Day_South_Carolina_56263 Democratic presidential candidate and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., arrives at Martin Luther King Jr. Day services at Zion Baptist Church on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
US. Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, I-Vt., U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, center, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, right, D--Mass., speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day services at Zion Baptist Church, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Election_2020_Pete_Buttigieg_61198 Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Brown & Black Presidential Forum at the Iowa Events Center, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Election_2020_Joe_Biden_69212 Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Brown & Black Forum at the Iowa Events Center, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Election_2020_Amy_Klobuchar_00675 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at the Brown & Black Forum at the Iowa Events Center, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Election_2020_Joe_Biden_67271 Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Brown & Black Forum at the Iowa Events Center, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Election_2020_Bernie_Sanders_35246 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Brown & Black Forum at the Iowa Events Center, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Election_2020_Andrew_Yang_15571 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks at the Brown & Black Forum at the Iowa Events Center, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidates hit pause on their recent feuds Monday as they walked shoulder to shoulder through the streets of South Carolina’s capital city to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and rally around their push to defeat President Donald Trump in November.

The truce was illustrated when Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren shook hands at Zion Baptist Church, then linked arms as they marched with the other candidates later in the morning. It was a gesture that didn’t materialize last week on a debate stage where the leading progressive candidates sparred over whether Sanders once privately said a woman couldn’t be president. Warren declined to shake Sanders’ outstretched hand after the debate.

“This is THE handshake,” said presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii.

From there, the candidates marched to the Statehouse, a building steeped in the history of South Carolina’s racial struggles.

For a few hours at least, the squabbling among the White House hopefuls over who is best positioned to defeat Trump gave way to a united condemnation of how they perceive he has handled America’s racial divide. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said there aren’t “’many sides’ to blame when one side is the Ku Klux Klan,” referencing Trump’s comments following a deadly 2017 clash between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has said he decided to run in 2020 following the violence in Charlottesville, said Trump has “given oxygen” to racism. Warren pledged to work toward what she characterized as a more tolerant society, noting “America is ready to move past this dark moment of Donald Trump.” Sanders encouraged the crowd to follow King’s legacy and “stand together.”

“Let us go forward and complete the journey,” he added.

In his rally speech, California businessman Tom Steyer referenced the tension between Warren and Sanders while dropping a reference in a previous debate to Democratic rival Pete Buttigieg’s high-dollar fundraisers.

“This is not the time for the people who are running with each other to bicker with each other or complain. It’s not a time for wine caves and old stories and old videos,” he said. “This is a time where we have a job: Beat Mr. Trump.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the lone remaining black candidate in the race, said progress made during the Civil Rights Movement has been stymied by Trump.

“We can’t go from hope and change to fear and settle for that,” he said.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, marched and attended a prayer service in South Carolina but left for Iowa before the speaking program began.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C, on Monday afternoon, pausing in front of the monument and the wreaths to pay their respects.

In the closing days before the first votes are cast in the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, the party’s leading hopefuls split their time between the critical early voting states of South Carolina and Iowa at events celebrating King. While Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats vote first for their nominee, South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary is a crucial proving ground for a candidate’s mettle with black voters.

Columbia’s King Day at the Dome, a notable event for Democratic politicians , began in 2000 as a reaction to state lawmakers’ decision that year to keep the Confederate battle flag flying from the Statehouse’s copper-covered cupola that sits atop the dome. Tens of thousands of people marched through Columbia’s downtown from the prayer service to the Statehouse.

Lawmakers eventually agreed to a compromise that moved the flag to a flagpole, albeit one prominently situated in front of the building. The deal also recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the state and created Confederate Memorial Day.

In 2015, following the racist massacre of nine Bible study participants at a historic black church in Charleston, lawmakers voted to remove the flag from the grounds.

In years past, many Democratic presidential hopefuls have made their way to the north-facing facade of the Statehouse, including John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Last year, Sanders and Sen. Cory Booker, who has since dropped out of the 2020 race, attended.

Many of the candidates in the wide fieldalso traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday for the Brown and Black Forum, recognized as one of the nation’s oldest minority-focused presidential candidate events of its kind. Traditionally a debate, the event has evolved into a one-on-one candidate forum. Several candidates fielded sharp questions about some of their past decisions in public office. Biden defended the Obama administration’s record on immigration. He declined again to disclose how he advised Obama on deportations, but Biden said his administration would focus on “family reunification” and not detain asylum seekers at the border. “They show up” for hearings, he said.

Klobuchar said she regretted early in her Senate career supporting a measure to make English the nation’s official language. Buttigieg, questioned about South Bend’s struggle to retain black police officers, said, “This is an area where I’ve admitted we’re not where we want to be.”

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is not competing in the early-voting states but has put some of his multimillion-dollar ad spending there, walked along the route of Little Rock’s annual “marade” (a march and a parade) marking the King holiday.

“Reminds me of New York,” Bloomberg quipped, tossing candy into crowds and posing for pictures.

Tech businessman Andrew Yang is on a 17-day bus tour of Iowa and planned to remain there.

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Associated Press writers Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Ark., Zeke Miller in Washington and Bill Barrow in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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