Democrats Hail Civil Rights Leader King

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By JIM DAVENPORT
The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 7:59 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph Biden said Monday he thinks the Confederate flag should be kept off South Carolina's Statehouse grounds.

The comments by the U.S. senator from Delaware on a day of events celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy came as a potential Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, evoked the memory of the slain civil rights leader.

"As I recall, Dr. King wasn't hanging out in Manhattan, Dr. King wasn't hanging out in Beverly Hills," Obama, D-Ill., told a King remembrance service in an economically depressed south Chicago suburb.

Introducing Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told a crowd at the annual King scholarship breakfast, "it's a long, nonstop line between the march in Selma in 1965 and the inauguration in Washington in 2009."

Screaming admirers managed to get Obama's autograph after he advocated removing troops from Iraq, rebuilding struggling areas such as the suburb of Harvey where he was speaking and increasing civic activism and calling on people, especially fathers, to be better parents.

In San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded more than 1,000 people attending a union-sponsored breakfast honoring King that the slain civil rights leader spoke out against the Vietnam War because he saw domestic and national security issues as inexorably intertwined.

Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats would counter President Bush's proposal to send more troops to Iraq with a plan changing the U.S. mission there "from combat to training, to fighting terrorism, to protecting our forces.

"The nation is spending "two billion a week in Iraq _ think of what we could do a week, a month, a day with that money," Pelosi said, adding that the nation also has paid too great a cost in casualties, its international reputation and military readiness at home.

In Columbia, S.C., more than six years after the Confederate flag was taken down from the Capitol dome, its location in front of the Statehouse remains an issue.

"If I were a state legislator, I'd vote for it to move off the grounds _ out of the state," Biden said at an NAACP march and rally at the Statehouse.

Jim Hanks stood across from the South Carolina Statehouse with about 35 Confederate flag supporters.

"We love this flag. We love our heritage," said Hanks, of Lexington.

Some carried signs saying, "South Carolina does not want Chris Dodd," referring to the Connecticut senator who, along with Biden, attended the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People rally at the Statehouse.

On Sunday, Dodd told The Associated Press at a King remembrance service in Greenville that the Confederate flag belongs in a museum.

"I don't think it belongs on the Capitol grounds," Dodd said.

In 2000, as the NAACP began a South Carolina tourism boycott, the flag was flying on the Capitol dome and in House and Senate chambers. Legislators agreed to take the flag down that year, but raised the banner outside the Statehouse beside a Confederate soldiers monument.

Biden expects legislators here will eventually move the flag. Pointing to his heart, he said, "as people become more and more aware of what it means to African-Americans here, this is only a matter of time."


© 2007 The Associated Press

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