Hundreds gather for Martin Luther King March in Memphis

Hundreds of people are gathering at a union headquarters hours before a march marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev Martin Luther King Jr in Memphis.

Workers at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees office chanted, banged drums and held signs saying "I Am" - one of the slogans for events surrounding the anniversary of King's death.

Andre Gipson, the local president for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said about 400 members from other cities are in Memphis for the march.

He said the march promises to be a "very special" event for workers, with attendees bundled up on a chilly yet sunny morning.

The civil rights leader's family and admirers are marking the anniversary with marches, speeches and quiet reflection across the country.

The commemorations stretch from his home town of Atlanta to Memphis, where he died, and points beyond.

King's daughter the Rev Bernice A King is moderating an awards ceremony in his honour in Atlanta.

The Memphis events are scheduled to feature King's contemporaries, including the Rev Jesse Jackson, the Rev Al Sharpton and US representative John Lewis, along with celebrities such as the rapper Common.

In the evening, Atlanta events culminate with a bell-ringing and wreath-laying at his crypt to mark the moment he was gunned down on the balcony of the old Lorraine Motel on April 4 1968. He was 39.

Wednesday's events followed a rousing celebration the night before of King's "I've Been To the Mountaintop" speech at Memphis's Mason Temple Church of God in Christ.

He delivered this speech the night before he was assassinated.

Inside the church, Bernice King called her older brother, Martin Luther King III, to join her in the pulpit, and she discussed the difficulty of publicly mourning their father - a man hated during his lifetime, now beloved around the world.

"It's important to see two of the children who lost their daddy 50 years ago to an assassin's bullet," said Ms King, now 55.

"But we kept going. Keep all of us in prayer as we continue the grieving process for a parent that we've had yet to bury."

- PA

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