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Thousands march in San Francisco to honor Martin Luther King’s legacy

People view a ballpark with an MLK quote on the scoreboard overlooking water.
A screen in Oracle Park shows a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. march in San Francisco on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. | Source: Camille Cohen for The Standard

Desiree Dieste considered spending the federal holiday Monday at home getting some rest, but in the end, she decided to take her two kids to the street for a class on social justice.

San Francisco’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, hosted by interfaith religious groups, drew a massive crowd of residents and civic leaders who turned out to honor the civil rights leader’s legacy.

“Things are bad around the world, but there’s good people wanting to make a difference,” said Dieste, a Berkeley resident who marched alongside her kids, aged 6 and 10. “We want our kids to be raised to be those good people that stand up for the right things.”

A diverse crowd of protesters holding signs calling for an end to police brutality, moving through a sunny street.
Thousands walk through the streets of San Francisco for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march Monday. | Source: Camille Cohen for The Standard

For decades, the city has hosted the annual march to commemorate the legendary late civil rights leader and icon of nonviolent resistance. Marchers at the Monday event carried signs quoting lines from King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

King visited San Francisco a number of times, starting in the 1950s, to preach on civil rights and the evils of segregation. Thousands showed up in the city to mourn his assassination in 1968.

In the 1980s, King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, asked the Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church, San Francisco’s charitable pillar in the Tenderloin, to hold an annual march to honor King’s legacy.

The march began at Fourth and King streets near the Caltrain station and ended at Yerba Buena Gardens. It crossed the Lefty O’Doul Bridge over the Mission Creek Channel to commemorate King’s crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the legendary march he led from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

A diverse crowd walks across a metal bridge in a city, some holding signs, with urban buildings in the background.
Thousands cross San Francisco's Lefty O’Doul Bridge on Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the legendary march he led from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. | Source: Camille Cohen for The Standard

In a speech, Mayor London Breed told the crowd Monday that she remembered growing up in the Western Addition and attending the San Francisco MLK Day march, saying it has brought joy and unity to many generations of San Franciscans.

“We would march from Caltrain to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium,” Breed said. “We celebrated together. It was joy. It was happiness to honor Dr. King’s legacy and what he stood for.”

She praised all the organizers of different faith communities for standing together and “using love as a weapon to overcome hatred.”

Other officials were in attendance, including District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, Police Chief Bill Scott and Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson.

A person speaks at a podium on a stage, with a city skyline in the background and an attentive audience seated in front.
Marvin K. White, minister of celebration at Glide Memorial Church, speaks to a crowd after the annual Martin Luther King Jr. march on Monday. | Source: Camille Cohen for The Standard

Leading the march was Marvin K. White, Glide’s minister of celebration. He called the event a display of love. He urged people to take the lead in their own communities at a time when San Francisco faces multiple crises.

“We’re reminded all the time that we can’t wait for anybody else to lead us,” White said. “Start the next march, start the next coalition, start the next movement.”

Han Li can be reached at