Special programs commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Hundreds of people filled the state Capitol rotunda Monday to commemorate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

In a speech that addressed the racial tensions after a fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and increased arrest rates of African-Americans, guest speaker Anthony "Van" Jones said King would support the movement of young black Wisconsin residents.

The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition in Madison has clashed with police over the release of black inmates and racially equal policing, and has sought to self-police in some communities, Jones said.

"They want the prison doors closed and the doors of opportunity opened for them," said Jones, an author, attorney and president of the organization Rebuild the Dream, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. "Be patient with this new movement. Be patient with these young people."

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin also encouraged the state and the country to strive for equality.

"Today let us re-dedicate ourselves to writing a history of progress that we can proudly pass on to future generations ... in a country that is more equal, not less," the Democrat said.

Gov. Scott Walker attended the event and issued a proclamation at its conclusion recognizing Martin Luther King Day.

Walker told reporters after the event that he liked much of what Jones had to say and was interested in pursuing some criminal justice reforms.

"If there are ways to provide viable alternatives, particularly for the judiciary, to incarceration in ways that still keep the public safe, we'll certainly look at that," Walker said.

The event also featured musical performances by the University of Illinois Black Chorus and Latino Art Strings. Jadon Colbert, a 9-year-old from Madison, recited King's "I Have a Dream" speech and received a standing ovation.

Other events around the state commemorated King's memory on Monday. The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee held its 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee.


Associated Press reporter Scott Bauer contributed to this report. Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter at

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