Did Bush Desecrates King’s Tomb?

Bush visits Atlanta for ceremony, fund-raiser

By Sinclere Lee

Atlanta (BNW)—
In his pitiful attempt to reach out to the Black community, Bush went to Atlanta to lay a wreath of red, white and blue flowers on the crypt of Martin Luther King. King’s crypt has become a holy place for many Black Americans, and Bush’s very presence was in the minds of many Blacks a desecration of King’s tomb!

Right after Bush laid the wreath at the tomb to mark the civil rights leader's 75th birthday, Bush went straight to a $1.3 million campaign fundraiser. Bush met briefly with Coretta Scott King before laying against the white marble crypt.

At a press conference, the Atlanta NAACP chief questioned Bush's motives. Bush contacted the King Center last week to say he would be in Atlanta and wanted to pay respects by placing a wreath at King's crypt.

"Did he come to raise funds for Republicans and stop by to lay a wreath as a secondary ploy, or is he sincere about laying the wreath and the fund-raising secondary?" said the Rev. R.L. White, president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP. King Center officials said Bush was welcome, as were previous presidents who honored King. The national birthday holiday is Monday.

As Bush made the gesture, hundreds of protesters beat drums and chanted "Bush go home." The president was not formally invited to attend Thursday's commemorative events, and critics accused the president of using the appearance to gain support from black voters.

However, his supporters saw the president's appearance as an authentic gesture of support. Dan Wykoff, a 23-year-old Georgia State University graduate from Lawrenceville, said he was impressed by the visit.

"He's one of the most sincere presidents we've had in 12 years. He's compassionate," Wykoff said. "I think it's a sincere gesture to reconcile racial tension."

Bush seemed to ignore the demonstrators and made no comment about them.

At a $2,000-a-plate fund-raiser at the Georgia World Congress Center afterward, the president gained the endorsement of several state Democratic politicians who joined U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, who has said he would campaign for Bush.

Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who fought alongside King during the 1960s civil rights movement, also attended the fund-raiser.

Bush provided an upbeat assessment of his administration during the address, touching on the economy, the war in Iraq and his education initiative.

"I took this office to solve problems, not to pass them on to future presidents or to future generations," he said.

The biggest round of applause came when he said U.S. troops would stay in Iraq. "All Iraqis who have taken the side of freedom have taken the winning side. America will never be intimidated by a bunch of thugs and assassins," Bush said.

Despite the warm greeting he received at the Georgia World Congress Center, demonstrators at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change and on downtown streets expressed strong opposition to the president and his visit.

Atlanta police estimated the King Center protesters numbered about 1,000. Two were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

"What the Bush administration stands for is the exact opposite of what Dr. King does," said Beth Anne Matari, 51, of Atlanta, standing with a "War is not the answer" sign near the King Center, where police used MARTA buses to separate protesters from the president. "It's hypocritical for him to come on Dr. King's birthday."

Bush made no public reference to King either to the King Center protesters or later to political boosters at the fund-raiser.

The president also attended a fund-raiser in New Orleans earlier in the day, where he promoted his faith-based initiatives to African-Americans.

The White House defended both visits. "The president spoke earlier today at a church in New Orleans where Dr. King spoke in 1961," said White House spokesman Taylor Gross. "It is important to this president to honor [King's] memory and he has a commitment to building on Dr. King's legacy of equal justice for all,"

In New Orleans, the president sought the support of African-Americans for his efforts to extend federal funds to religious charities. Bush said he wanted charities that make their services available to everyone to have access to government assistance without being required to make fundamental changes. He also attended a luncheon fund-raiser for his campaign while in New Orleans.

Bush then flew on Air Force One to Atlanta for the 3:45 p.m. wreath-laying, plans for which had spurred criticism for several days.

Hundreds of protesters, black and white, could be heard at a distance as Bush placed the wreath at King's crypt shortly before 4 p.m. after being escorted there by King's widow and his sister, Christine King Farris. The president stood in silent prayer for about a minute. He returned to the presidential motorcade at about 4:05 after saying goodbye to King family members.

The GWCC event raised $1.3 million, said organizer Jaime Reynolds. To have a picture taken with Bush at the fund-raiser, a Republican had to prove he'd raised $20,000 for the campaign.

Some Democrats, however, didn't have to pay to have their picture snapped with him. Miller, a former two-term Democratic governor, introduced Bush at the event.

"I want a commander in chief who can and will make a decision," Miller said. "I want a president who will not flinch."

Along with Miller, 11 state House Democrats were on hand to endorse the Republican president. They were introduced by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, a former Democrat, who called them "folks who used to be like I was."

Several of the legislators are chairmen of powerful House committees. "Of the people running now, I'm going with the president," Rep. Bobby Parham (D-Milledgeville) said of the current presidential candidates.

Rep. Carl Rogers (D-Gainesville) said, "I got a son in the military, too, and I have to support him." Rep. Mike Boggs (D-Waycross), who is serving his last year in the House and is running for a Superior Court judgeship next year, said: "There's a lot of conservative Democrats in the Georgia Legislature who support President Bush. I don't think it's controversial at all."

Other Democratic House members backing Bush are Reps. Ken Birdsong of Gordon, Robert Ray of Fort Valley, Johnny Floyd of Cordele, Jeanette Jamison of Toccoa, Mickey Channell of Greensboro, Penny Houston of Nashville, Mike Snow of Chickamauga and Charles Jenkins of Blairsville.

The legislators were joined by other Georgia political figures, including Griffin Bell, who was U.S. attorney general in President Carter's administration. "I support President George W. Bush for re-election because his leadership is crucial during this time in our nation," Bell said.

The president also pushed his faith-based initiatives during his speech. He has emphasized the advantages for black communities.

Young, U.N. ambassador in the Carter administration, said he had no problem with that message. "Everything I've ever done in my life has been faith-based," he said.

Young said he had collared some time with Bush to talk about trade with Africa. "I've had as much access to this president as I've had to any president," he said.

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