Amid Trump criticism, MLK Day event underscores unity
As people and communities across Long Island gathered Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr., the reported comments by President Donald Trump about African nations and people from Haiti weighed on some minds.
At the Bethel AME Church in Copiague, it was standing-room only as residents gathered to sing, clap and listen to powerful words about King's legacy. Many of those who attended the celebration were disturbed by President Trump's alleged comments, but said his words would not dilute Dr. King's message of unity.
Some attendees said they would not be distracted and allow the political debate to overshadow the importance of the day.
"Martin Luther King Day is his day, and nothing anyone else can say can put on a damper on that," says Aarron Marsh, of Wyandanch.
"When the president makes these statements it bothers everyone, simply because that is not our legacy, that is not our foundation, nor is that what Dr. King stood for," says the Rev. Dr. Keith Hayward.
Trump's remarks were reportedly made during a closed-door meeting with members of Congress to discuss immigration last Thursday. He has since denied making the comments to reporters, and on Sunday declared that he's "not a racist."
President Trump spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day at his golf club in Florida. Past presidents, such as Barack Obama and George W. Bush, spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering or visiting memorials in the civil rights leader's honor.