LITTLE ROCK — Recent police killings of unarmed black men and the fate of the Little Rock School District were among the topics addressed Monday during celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the state’s capital city.

LITTLE ROCK — Recent police killings of unarmed black men and the fate of the Little Rock School District were among the topics addressed Monday during celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the state’s capital city.


The 31st annual Marade, a combination march and parade in Little Rock sponsored by the Little Rock NAACP, was among numerous events held around the state to mark the holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.


Along with signs honoring King, participants in the Marade carried signs with slogans such as "Being black is not a crime" and "Black lives matter."


Jovii Williams, 19, of North Little Rock carried a sign that read, "STOP KKKILLING US!!!!!" The sign referred to "all of the police brutality and such that has been going on" toward blacks, said Williams, who marched with members of the Center for Artistic Revolution, a group that promotes civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.


The Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the July 17 fatal police chokehold of Eric Garner in New York, neither of which resulted in indictments against the officers involved, have sparked protests around the country. Fred W. Smith of Little Rock, who was among hundreds of spectators at the Marade, said he is concerned about the incidents.


"I’m not condemning all policemen," Smith said. "I believe in ‘to protect and defend,’ but still in some cases I feel that justice was not carried out for those who were victims in cases where they were killed by police."


The Marade traveled along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to the state Capitol, where the Little Rock NAACP held a ceremony on the Capitol steps. The sky was cloudy but the weather was unusually warm for the time of year, with the temperature in Little Rock reaching the low 60s.


Speakers at the ceremony included Dianne Curry, a member of the Little Rock School Board, who spoke of the current push by some Little Rock business leaders for a state takeover of the Little Rock School District. The state Board of Education is scheduled to hold a special meeting Jan. 28 to consider intervening in the district, which has six schools in academic distress.


Curry said the district is facing a crisis similar to the integration crisis of 1957, when Gov. Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to stop black students from entering Central High School.


If the current black-majority school board is removed, "you will not have a voice," she said.


The Rev. Hezekiah Stewart, pastor of Moody Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Little Rock and grand marshal of the Marade, told the crowd that King "aroused the conscience of America" with his message of love and nonviolence.


"Dr. King is a great man, and we do great to celebrate him today, but he would be happy if we would get along," Stewart said. "Don’t teach (children) with your life how to hate one another. Use your life to teach them how to love."


Parades and marches honoring King were held Monday in a number of other cities around the state, including Arkadelphia, Benton, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Malvern, Morrilton, Pine Bluff and Russellville.


Other events marking the holiday included a day of service and job fair at the Benton Event Center where scheduled guests included Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock; programs at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith; and a banquet at Fayetteville Town Center.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of January, which is around King’s birthday, Jan. 15. Arkansas also observes the day as Robert E. Lee Day.