Despite a temperature plunge that replaced a sunny Sunday with a freezing Monday morning, Denver’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Marade (part march, part parade) still proceeded from City Park to Civic Center Park with a crowd stretching at least a block long.
The march around King’s birthday has persisted since the late 1970s; at the beginning, it was a protest calling for the state legislature to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King day as a state holiday. In 1984, then-State Rep. Wilma Webb was finally successful in sponsoring a bill to establish the holiday. Despite some resistance in the early 90s, the march has largely been a celebration since the holiday was passed.
Over the years, the holiday and march have been an opportunity to comment on current events through the lens of King’s fight for civil rights. This year, many speakers referred to the divisive policies set by the federal government as they called for justice.
“We’re not going to let no one turn us around,” said former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. “When we collectively come together, and when that person in the White House looks around, there’s always more of us good people than there are white nationalists. We need to call him out for what he is.”
Mayor Webb called for protections for undocumented youth who have status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, established under the Dream Act, whose status is still yet to be decided in Washington.
Wilma Webb, wife to Wellington, called the president out directly on his numerous divisive statements, most recently reportedly referring to majority black countries with vulgar language. But Ms. Webb’s focus remained on Dr. King’s ideology that emphasized love in the face of hatred.
“We are not going back, we’re not going to take it,” she said. “Love is not silent. Love is active. Sometimes when people are doing wrong, to love them is to correct them. We’re not going to let our country be known for these kinds of things.”
The sun peeked through the clouds by the time the procession made it to the Capitol, illuminating the still-falling snow and warming the crowd that had grown considerably since the bleak, chilly beginning at City Park.