The Latest: Obamas perform double duty on King Day

January 19, 2016 in News

President Barack Obama, right, and first lady Michelle Obama left, hand out books as they participate in a service project at Leckie Elementary School in Washington, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

President Barack Obama, right, and first lady Michelle Obama left, hand out books as they participate in a service project at Leckie Elementary School in Washington, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) — The latest on rallies, marches and speeches honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: (all times eastern)

2:20 p.m.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama performed double duty on the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

The Obamas assembled a garden bed and planted vegetable seeds at a District of Columbia elementary school in remembrance of the slain civil rights leader and to celebrate Mrs. Obama’s anti-childhood obesity initiative.

The White House says the school has many students who come from military families, which is another of the first lady’s causes.

The Obamas also helped stuff bags with books for needy children.

The White House says each bag included a copy of “Oh the Things You Can Do that are Good for You!” by Dr. Seuss.

Young people who participate in a White House mentoring program joined the Obamas. Volunteers from the AmeriCorps national service program also participated.

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2 p.m.

The chief civil rights organization in South Carolina has wrapped up its first King Day at the Dome rally after winning its long fight to have the Confederate flag removed from Statehouse grounds.

The rebel banner removed last summer after nine black churchgoers were killed in Charleston was only mentioned a few times Monday.

Frequent speaker Ronald Epps says the Statehouse finally feels like his capitol with the Confederate flag gone from the front lawn.

State NAACP President Lonnie Randolph says his group will keep fighting racially inequality. The theme of this year’s rally was improving education.

Randolph says he is sure the Republican-dominated South Carolina Legislature will do something this year to make sure the NAACP returns to fight injustice on Martin Luther King Day in 2017.

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1:35 p.m.

All three Democratic presidential candidates are in South Carolina speaking at the state NAACP’s rally on the holiday to commemorate civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Hillary Clinton was the only candidate Monday to discuss at length the Confederate flag that was removed from the capitol grounds last summer. She says South Carolina had to choose between honoring King’s legacy or the Confederacy and made the right choice.

Clinton also was the only person to mention the role of Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and the GOP-dominated Legislature in bringing down the rebel banner.

Bernie Sanders says King must be remembered as a dynamic figure who fought for the poor.

Martin O’Malley said King would be ashamed the county has made it harder to vote but easier to buy a gun.

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1 p.m.

An overflow crowd showed up at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said this year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s visit to Chicago to launch a campaign for fair housing.

Castro said King moved into an apartment on Chicago’s west side and later described seeing “a daily battle against depression and hopelessness” as babies were attacked by rats and children wore clothes too thin to protect against the cold winter weather. Castro said protesters eventually got the Chicago real estate board to embrace housing laws that did not discriminate.

Across the street, at Ebenezer’s older sanctuary where King preached, visitors prayed in wooden pews and listened to tapes of King speaking.

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12:35 p.m.

People across Michigan are honoring the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. with acts of service, including delivering bottled water to residents of Flint amid the city’s drinking water crisis.

Monday is the 30th anniversary of the federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader. Volunteers plan to travel from the Detroit suburb of Dearborn to Flint to deliver more than 40,000 water bottles and water filters on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In Detroit, a historical marker is being dedicated at the site of WGPR-TV, the country’s first black-owned and operated television station.

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11:35 a.m.

About 1,000 people have gathered under chilly and sunny skies at South Carolina’s Statehouse to remember slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

For the past 17 years, civil rights leaders have used the holiday to argue for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse, but this summer, the flag was taken down after nine black church members were killed in Charleston.

There was more security this year than most other years because the three Democratic presidential candidates are attending.

The keynote speaker at a prayer breakfast briefly acknowledged the removal of the Confederate flag from the state’s Capitol before talking at length about reducing the number of people in prisons.

Bishop James Walker opened the state NAACP’s commemoration of the slain civil rights leader by thanking the group for putting pressure on state leaders since 2000 to remove the rebel banner from the Statehouse.

The NAACP then marched five blocks to the Statehouse with candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders up front.