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MLK Memorial opens to public

The $120 million memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. opens to the public in Washington, Aug. 22, 2011. The official opening dedication will be Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of King's I Have a Dream speech. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
The $120 million memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. opens to the public in Washington, Aug. 22, 2011. The official opening dedication will be Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial opened to the public Monday, the first day of a five-day celebration of the newest monument in Washington.

President Barack Obama will speak Sunday at the dedication of the memorial, with as many as 200,000 people expected to attend, officials said. The $120 million memorial will open on the anniversary of King's 1963 landmark "I Have a Dream" speech.

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The memorial, which has been more than 25 years in the making, is located on a 4-acre site on the National Mall.

In one of the events leading up to the dedication, the speaker will be Andrew Young, who was a King associate, Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador.

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When members of the public were admitted Monday, some wept while others snapped photographs, The Washington Post reported.

"It's beautiful, exquisite," Paulette Davis of Washington said. "I'm remembering where he led us. This exceeded my expectations."

The memorial, designed by sculptor Lei Yixin, features a 30-foot statue of King, who was assassinated in April 1968.

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As members of the public were admitted to the memorial, members of Local 1 Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers handed out leaflets outside the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation offices in Washington, intended to publicize the fact that U.S. stone carvers were passed over work on the monument, which uses stone that was quarried in China, the newspaper said.

"With the record of China on human rights, and the fact that we have such high unemployment in the United States, we're wondering why?" Scott Garvin, president of Local 1, said.

Garvin said U.S. union members had worked on virtually every other project on the National Mall, ABC News reported.

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