Two days out from the inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took breaks from their prep to honour the civil rights hero.

Flowers lay in front of the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Atlanta on January 18, 2021.
Flowers lay in front of the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Atlanta on January 18, 2021. (AP)

Across the US, Americans are celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with marches and festivals held in honour of the civil rights giant on the national holiday that bears his name. 

In Washington, DC, the MLK Jr. Peace Walk and Parade winded through the city's streets on Monday and was attended by King's eldest son, Martin Luther King III and his family as well as DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and hundreds of demonstrators.

US Marine riflemen also took part in the celebration of King's life, dressed in full ceremonial uniforms

Two days out from the inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also celebrated MLK Day, joining service projects as a militarised and jittery Washington prepared for a swearing-in that will play out under extraordinary security.

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Civil rights movement leader

King, a Christian minister, is remembered as the most pivotal individual in the civil rights movement that sought an end to segregation in the US and other forms of discrimination.

Prior to his 1968 assassination, King was a strong advocate for peaceful non-violent protest and played a leading role in several major demonstrations that included the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott that ended segregation in the Alabama city's public transit system.

His 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech, a public appeal for racial equality, is still remembered as one of the great public addresses in American history alongside Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" and Franklin Roosevelt's "Infamy Speech."

He was shot dead on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony outside his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

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National Day of Service

Biden and his wife Jill joined an assembly line in the parking lot of Philabundance on Monday, an organisation that distributes food to people in need, and helped fill about 150 boxes with fresh fruit and non-perishables.

The Bidens were joined in their service project by their daughter, Ashley Biden, their granddaughter Finnegan Biden, and Peter Neal, who is dating another Biden granddaughter.

Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were scheduled to take part in a National Day of Service event in Washington. 

Harris was expected to resign her Senate seat on Monday afternoon.

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US President-elect Joe Biden volunteers at Philabundance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US on January 18, 2021.
US President-elect Joe Biden volunteers at Philabundance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US on January 18, 2021. (Reuters)

Trump out of sight

As Biden and Harris took breaks from their inaugural prep to honour the civil rights hero, outgoing President Donald Trump remained out of public view at the White House for the sixth straight day. 

In past years, Trump has marked the holiday with unannounced visits to the King memorial in Washington but no such outing was expected this year.

Such a visit would have been complicated this year since Washington has become a fortress city of roadblocks and barricades ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration as security officials work to avoid more violence following the January 6 riot by a pro-Trump mob at the US Capitol.

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Washington rattled

In a measure of how jittery the capital city has become, US Capitol Police on Monday briefly locked down the Capitol complex and paused inaugural rehearsals after a small explosion at a nearby homeless encampment. 

Authorities urged staff working inside the complex to stay away from exterior windows and those outside the building to take cover as they briefly prohibited entry and exit from the campus “out of an abundance of caution.”

More than 20,000 National Guard troops were being dispatched across the city to bolster security. 

Monuments — including the King memorial — are closed to the public until after Wednesday's inaugural events.

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Building Biden's administration

Biden continued to build out his administration. 

His transition team announced Monday he will nominate Rohit Chopra to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, tapping a progressive ally of Senator Elizabeth Warren to lead the agency whose creation she championed.

Chopra, a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, helped launch the agency after the 2008 financial crisis and served as deputy director, where he sounded the alarm about skyrocketing levels of student loan debt. 

The pick comes as Democrats are eyeing ways to provide student loan relief to millions of Americans as part of a Covid-19 relief package.

Biden also announced his intent to nominate Gary Gensler, former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Inauguration prep

Inaugural organisers on Monday finished installing some 200,000 small US, state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a sobering display intended to honour the nearly 400,000 Americans killed in the coronavirus pandemic.

Even before the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, inauguration festivities were expected to be muted due to the virus. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents to stay away from the city on Inauguration Day.

And instead of the typical inaugural balls, Biden's inaugural committee has recruited artists, including Bruce Springsteen, the Foo Fighters and John Legend to perform from remote locations around the country in a prime-time televised event.

Ahead of the inauguration, the German Federation of Journalists, known as the DJV, warned foreign correspondents covering the event to take precautions and be “particularly careful and alert on Wednesday.”

Association head Frank Ueberall cautioned Monday that “extremist Trump fans have already demonstrated their hatred and willingness to use violence against journalists at the Capitol.”

“It is appalling that such an appeal is even necessary in the USA, once the model democracy,” he added.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies