GAINESVILLE - Around 150 marchers began this year's 43rd annual Gainesville celebration of Martin Luther King Day with song and prayer at E.E. Butler Center Monday afternoon.
The celebration and march is hosted annually by the Newton Florist Club, a service club that became a community action group. Club member and march leader, the Reverend Rose Johnson, said starting the march where for years it has ended made the event more community oriented.
"What we wanted to do was to begin to change things around," Reverend Johnson said. "We wanted the march to start in the community and move forward."
She added that the new change of program venue to Gainesville Middle School was also a reason.
"We had to develop a different kind of route that would be safe and suitable."
With their Gainesville Police Department escort, marchers began at 1:00 p.m. and went from Athens Highway to Martin Luther King Boulevard, which took them to New Holland and then across Jesse Jewell Parkway to the Middle School. The Reverend Eugene Green, former pastor of St. John Baptist Church, led a commemorative program in the Middle School gymnasium scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m.to honor the slain Civil Rights leader who died 45 years ago.
Gainesville State College student and marcher Erin Watson said the march was historic because President Obama's inauguration and MLK Day are on the same day.
"That's very unique that it was planned on the same day," Watson said. "I think its maybe resemblance since we have a new president and Martin Luther King died for us to be free."
This was not the first MLK Day march for the young college student; she said it's a tradition with her family.
"We do it every year," Watson said. "We normally march and go to the program to remember the history of the Martin Luther King march."