Sunday’s dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial has been postponed until further notice in anticipation of Hurricane Irene.
Harry Johnson, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Inc., announced Thursday that the ceremony will be rescheduled for September or October. President Barack Obama had been scheduled to speak at Sunday’s event.
The foundation consulted with the National Park Service, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency before making the decision, according to a statement on the foundation’s website.
“It is with a heavy heart and enormous disappointment that we announce that, in the interest of public safety, we are forced to change our plans,” Johnson said in the statement.
Hurricane Irene, a category 3 storm in the Atlantic Ocean, was east of Florida on Thursday evening and heading north-northwest. A hurricane warning was in effect for the North Carolina coast up to the Virginia border, and the storm was expected to continue through the Washington region over the weekend.
The foundation has been holding events throughout the week to mark the memorial’s debut, and Friday’s schedule, which includes a luncheon at the Washington Convention Center and a concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will go on as planned. So will Saturday’s prayer service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The memorial was opened to the public Monday, and lines of people formed on Independence Avenue to get in. Rows of chairs, portable toilets and a stage had been set up near the monument in West Potomac Park in preparation for Sunday’s dedication ceremony.