Freedom Train Rides On

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    The NAACP boycott of the Freedom Train did not appear to deter riders this year.

    Organizers say they had slightly fewer riders this year, but attribute it to rain.

    The Freedom Train honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as it travels the 51 miles from San Jose to San Francisco and has for more than 20 years.

    This year, the San Jose branch of the NAACP boycotted the event because they are upset that train organizers accepted a $5,000 donation from the San Jose Police Officers Association.

    San Jose NAACP President Jethroe Moore said accepting the money was inappropriate in light of reports that San Jose police officers are more likely to use force against people of color. 

    Freedom Train organizer Daniel Hoffman said the train wouldn't be on the track at all without help from the police union because key corporate sponsors dropped out.

    Most riders said they wish the controversy had never made it into their day which they said needed to remain focused on civil rights.

    The MLK Association of Santa Clara Valley, which produces the train ride, also released a statement that suggested the NAACP work out its differences with the police, rather than dragging the freedom train into it.

    Riders had fewer options to mark the occasion once they got into the City.

    For the first time in 25 years, a rally at San Francisco's Civic Center has been canceled as has a march down Market Street.

    The group that organized both events, and lead by Rev. Cecil Williams, disbanded last month.

    The San Francisco Chronicle said the group cited declining numbers.  Rev. Williams also said it was time to pass the torch to younger activists.

    "A lot of us who spent many, many years marching outside have moved inside," Williams told the paper. "We've been out there for a long time, and we decided we were ready to pull back and let the new leadership emerge."

    For more than two decades the group organized the march and rally. Last year the group skipped the march and downscaled the rally. This year, neither are part of the celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.