INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Bill Crawford says “the stars aligned over Indianapolis that day, that evening. And we stayed peaceful.”
The former state legislator describes the night, 46 years ago, when Indianapolis learned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed. Crawford was in the front row at a speech by Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The Democrat from New York was here for a stop during his presidential campaign.
Kennedy called King’s death “very sad news for all of you” and for “people who love peace all over the world.”
The crowd shrieked and shuddered at the news of Dr. King’s violent death on that April 4, 1968. Kennedy said Americans could react with hatred and revenge. But, he encouraged people, white and black, to understand and respect each other.
“We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future,” Kennedy said. “It is not the end of violence. It is not the end of lawlessness and it’s not the end of disorder. But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.”
Kennedy’s speech, only a few minutes in length, is routinely praised for keeping Indianapolis peaceful on a night when violence erupted in other American cities.
At a ceremony Friday night, Bill Crawford said he remembers “the sincerity” of Kennedy’s words. Indianapolis stayed peaceful, he said, because “we recognized that we lost the Prince of Non-Violence and we did not dishonor [Dr. King's] name or his mission or his mandate.”
Crawford participated in the commemoration of Kennedy’s speech and King’s mission. The event, called “Making the Dream a Reality,” represents the continuing commitment to promoting peace in the country and around the world. It’s a poignant message for Indianapolis in light of the latest murders.
“That mission is still there,” Crawford said. “That challenge is still there. We just have to step up.”