WHAT WOULD the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say about the police killings of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.?
A coalition of Philadelphia churches, labor unions, community and parent groups, and students - from high school through college - believe the slain civil-rights icon would have taken to the streets to protest what they believe are unjustified killings of unarmed black men.
That's what they plan to do in King's name on Monday, the national holiday marking his birth.
Organizers of MLK D.A.R.E. - Day of Action, Resistance and Empowerment - hope to get 10,000 marchers to honor King by protesting not only the deaths of Garner and Brown, but also to spotlight the need for reforms in the city's and nation's justice, economic and education systems.
"I absolutely believe that the Dr. King of history, as opposed to the mass-marketed Dr. King, would be on the side of those who want justice for Mike Brown and Eric Garner," said the Rev. Mark Tyler, a leading march organizer and pastor of the historic Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Society Hill.
Tyler was among a small group that traveled to Ferguson this summer. Stunned by the police department's tanks and other military hardware, Tyler said he and the others returned to Philadelphia believing a response greater than die-ins was needed.
"I think if King were alive today, he would be outraged. He would call for justice for Mike Brown and Eric Garner," said Anthony Monteiro, a former Temple University African-American Studies professor.
"He would demand accountability on the part of the police. He would see an out-of-control police force and a police force that had lost its moral compass," added Monteiro, who is also a march organizer.
Tyler said that although he supports the 1,800 community spruce-up projects that will be staffed by an estimated 135,000 King Day of Service volunteers, the times call for more.
"Dr. King would be happy that good works are being done in his name. But what we are saying is, Dr. King was not just a man of charity and good works. He was also a man of action," said Tyler, who predicted that many King Day projects would be finished early enough to allow volunteers to attend the march.
The march will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the School District of Philadelphia administration building, Broad Street near Spring Garden., travel to City Hall and then continue to 6th and Market streets for a rally at Independence Mall, Tyler said.
City officials, fixtures at King Day of Service projects for 20 years, appear uncertain about whether they'll join the march.
Earlier this week, Mayor Nutter and City Council President Darrell Clarke said they were unsure if their schedules would include the march.
"I haven't talked to anybody about it," Nutter said. "I saw a brief news story. There are any number of ways to recognize the life and the legacy and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King."
Given that King was a proponent of nonviolent protest, Nutter said, addressing the issue of violence should also be stressed by everyone on that day.
"We've got to stop the violence in our city. We have to stop the shootings and the murders and domestic violence and child abuse," he said.
"Violence, whether it's right here at home or the incredible events we are seeing playing out at the moment in Paris, all the various conflicts diminish the human spirit," he said.
Tyler said the issues of justice, jobs and education that the marchers will highlight are sadly similar to the same issues King and his contemporaries gave voice to some 50 years ago.
On the justice front, he said, they will be calling for the end of stop-and-frisk police practices and for the creation of an independent police review board with "teeth and power" to discipline abusive cops.
Regarding jobs, marchers will call for a raise in the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour and will advocate for workers' rights to form unions. On the education front, Tyler said, marchers will call for Harrisburg to create a "fair" school-funding formula and the return of city schools to local control.
He said getting 10,000 people to march should not be a problem, given the importance of the issues and the coalition's 20 member groups.
Those groups include the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; Asian Americans United; District Council 33; District Council 37; JUNTOS, which works for the rights of Latino immigrants; and the 40-church organization POWER - Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild.
"Ten thousand marchers is low-hanging fruit. You don't even have to sell people on why this is important," Tyler predicted.