'52 years later people are still demanding dignity, respect and justice' - Martin Luther King III speaks out on US protests

Martin Luther III spoke about the race protests in America on Good Morning Britain.

The human rights activist, and eldest son of Martin Luther King, told Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid: "Another senseless killing, another irresponsible, irrational policeman in this context played judge, jury and executioner, right on the streets in front of the eyes of millions of people."

He added there had been other killings in the past couple of weeks including a woman called Breonna Taylor who was killed in the wrong home and jogger Ahmaud Arbery was killed by a former policeman.

“These consistent incidents that occur have basically caused people to come to the conclusion that enough is enough and they want to see immediate action. In Minneapolis, I hope they will prosecute all four officers and that’s one of the reasons there is still great frustration because it is taking a long time to see some degree of initial justice," he continued.

On what his father would have made of events, he added: "I think number one, if he had lived, I think we would have been far beyond where we are now… I believe we would have resolved many of those issues if he had lived. Obviously, if he was to come back right now he would be deeply disturbed by the conduct we see. 50 years ago he led a demonstration, over 50 years ago, in Memphis and sanitation workers had signs that said, 'I am a man, I am requesting dignity and respect, treat us like human beings'. 52 years later, black people and white people and Hispanic and Latino people are standing with signs saying black lives matter. People are still demanding dignity, respect and justice.”

He asked if we had made any progress in some policing and he said: “The answer would be we still have ways and systematic change has to occur." 

Talking about the looting and violence, he said: "The destruction, I don’t feel that helps the cause. In fact, we saw Terrance Floyd, George’s brother who encouraged calm and peace in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed. My dad used to say violence is the language of the unheard… I would like to see more coverage, in Flint Michigan the sheriff marched with demonstrators… there was a protest where police kneeled with the protesters, that’s happening all over the place. The police have to do their job, so they need to stand back up but they are showing solidarity."

On whether this wave of protests would have a lasting impact, he said: "I don’t believe that people will go back to their normal lives, I believe we are finally going to see systematic change… I’ve never seen universal support. I’ve never seen policeman take a knee in this way. I’ve never seen some police figures marching with demonstrators. So this is a different climate… yes people want law and order but everyone has the propensity to see wrong has happened again and again." 

He continued: "People are tired and they must see something different. So we have got to rise up and do better and do differently and treat people like human beings, that’s all people want… we are a much better nation and world than the behaviour we exhibit. This is not to condemn anyone however I do not condone violence."

On Donald Trump's leadership in recent days, Mr King said: "What I would have liked to have seen the President do is to call religious leaders and his base together to say to the nation that we need to call for calmness and not to stoke the flames of hostility. I don’t know if he knows how. I was hoping he would look down into the depths of his heart and soul and for one time respond differently but that’s just not who he is."

He said he couldn’t imagine the President kneeling in support, but said: "I have to continue to pray, I am always hopeful even in the worst of times. My father and his team and my mother and her team and many, many before us never gave up. So we can never give up on a person changing, I don’t expect it but I have to always be hopeful. We need a President who brings people together. I think this President only knows how to divide, because he feels he wins that way. The reality is if he brought people together maybe he could still win."

As the interview came to an end, Mr King said he was still very proud of his father’s legacy and words. "There are aspects of that dream that have come true," he concluded.