About 60,000 people are expected to march down the Mall Friday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, sponsors of the event said yesterday.
The procession will begin at l0 a.m. from the Washington Monument grounds, and proceed along Constitution Avenue to the Capitol where a rally is scheduled to be held at about noon.
During the parade a number of downtown streets will be closed, including Constitution Avenue from First Street to 15th Street NW, 17th Street from New York Avenue to Independence Avenue SW, both 14th and 15th streets from E Street to Constitution Avenue, 12th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue and 10th Street from Pennsylvania to Constitution Avenue.
In Southeast Washington, about 20,000 residents are expected to take part in another parade honoring Dr. King that begins at 9 a.m., starting from Martin Luther King Avenue at Good Hope Road and ending in a ceremony at the Covenant Church, located at 3845 South Capitol St.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia observe King's birthday as a holiday. City employes will have the day off, and city government offices will be closed. Maryland state offices will be closed as well, as will local government offices in Alexandria and Prince George's County, and all Maryland state offices.
All area schools except in Arlington County also will be closed.
Friday will be a regular work day for federal employes, and rush hour parking and traffic regulations will be in effect. However, parking meter payments and time limits will not be enforced.
Singer Stevie Wonder, who will lead the march to the Capitol, announced plans for the event last November from his home in Los Angeles with the endorsement of Mrs. Coretta Scott King and the support of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Del. Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.), sponsors of a bill to make King's birthday a national holiday.
Conyers said in a statement that Wonder's march will "bring a new and continuing focus on the importance of honoring Dr. King. It is an important cultural and political concept that is even more significant now than it was several years ago."
Fauntroy said he was "extremely pleased that the effort to make Dr. King's birthday a holiday will be a well-coordinated one this year because of the cooperative efforts of Mrs. King and the bill's sponsors."
Wonder is expected to arrive in Pennsylvania today at the request of Gov. Richard Thornburgh to attend the signing of the proclamation declaring Martin Luther King's birthday a state holiday, then fly to Atlanta to present the proclamation to Mrs. King.
Wonder said he also will present petitions containing 2 million signatures to an assembly of black political leaders in Atlanta "to be used as they deem appropriate to get the holiday bill passed."