The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is being celebrated across the nation Monday with wreath-layings, community service projects and concerts.
Remembrances of King's legacy come amid somber reflection by many on incidents in which unarmed black men were killed by police in recent months, spurring protests and heightening tensions in the U.S. In Ferguson, Missouri, where one fatal shooting caused weeks of violent protests, leaders urged reforms to the criminal justice system in the name of equality.
"We need to be outraged when local law enforcement and the justice system repeatedly allow young, unarmed black men to encounter police and then wind up dead with no consequences,'' said U.S. Rep. William Clay, a St. Louis Democrat. "Not just in Ferguson, but over and over again across this country.''
Other King events planned for Monday's federal holiday included a wreath-laying in Maryland, a tribute breakfast in Boston and volunteer service activities by churches and community groups in Illinois. In South Carolina, civil rights leaders readied for their biggest rally of the year.
President Barack Obama honored the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in a community service project. The White House said the president and his wife, Michelle, helped with a project at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. The organization helps youngsters develop the skills they need to become responsible adults.
In a proclamation issued last week, Obama said the United States has made "undeniable progress'' since King agitated for justice and equality for all. But Obama said securing the gains requires "constant vigilance, not complacency.'' He called on everyone to stand together for good jobs, fair wages, safe neighborhoods and quality education.
Vice President Joe Biden spoke Monday at a Delaware breakfast honoring King. He said communities and police departments need to build trust.