Annual march celebrates MLK.
By Wally Perez
An estimated 200,000 people gathered to march displaying signs asking for peace, justice and equality Monday during the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. March.
The 2.75-mile march, which started at the east side Martin Luther King Jr. Academy and ended at Pittman-Sullivan Park, immortalizes the beliefs and ideas that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, with a wide variety of representation among races, sexes and ages exhibiting their beliefs visually and vocally.
King was one of the most famous fighters and heroes in the ongoing battle for civil rights for African-Americans, known for his nonviolent protests and civil disobedience throughout the 1950s and 1960s. King was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., but his legacy lives on through movements such as San Antonio’s march, which is recognized as the largest in the nation, according to Mayor Ivy Taylor.
Retired postman Robert McDaniel and SAISD teacher Christine McDaniel have been participating in the march for 25 and 16 years respectively.
They’ve witnessed the event grow in size over many years and were thrilled to see the turnout as big as ever.
“It’s gotten a lot larger, attendance-wise and diversity-wise,” Robert McDaniel said.
“It’s good to see a lot of young people involved — as an educator it’s great to see them learning about King’s legacy,” Christine McDaniel said. “For a moment, everyone comes together for peace and unity — for the cause.”
Leading the march linked arm and arm were Taylor, District 2 City Councilman Alan E. Warrick II and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. Former Mayor Julian Castro and state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer followed shortly after.
Among the crowd of marchers, signs displaying quotes from King and individuals’ beliefs were held high. “Unity must reign” was one of the more popular signs.
Ahead of the pack, many marchers held a banner, which read, “Arrest Robert Encina,” while wearing T-shirts with the words, “I am Marquise Jones. If you don’t know, ask me.”
Jones’ family was with the group spreading the message: put an end to police brutality.
Jones was shot dead by the off-duty San Antonio police officer Encina at a restaurant last February.
In light of recent police shootings across the nation, the Encina/Jones incident attracted attention. After investigation, Encina was not charged by a grand jury. He stated Jones got out of a car holding a gun.
Signs varied from political ones such as, “Vote for Bernie 2016,” to the topic of injustice and racism with words like, “From Ferguson to Palestine.”
Outside of the Mt. Zion Sheltering Arms complex, a resident and retired soldier, who would not disclose his name, waved joyfully at marchers as he read what people were advocating.
The 1988 graduate of St. Philip’s College said he has watched the event for the past seven years.
“It’s a great way to commemorate King’s voice, and his work lives on through gatherings like this,” he said.
As the marchers arrived at Pittman-Sullivan Park, festivities were awaiting them, as many booths offering food and drink were available.
The main stage had been decorated with large banners depicting King, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. A crowd gathered to hear live music and speeches by political figures, including the mayor, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and U.S. Rep. William Hurd, as well as Charles Hood, San Antonio Fire Chief; Brandon Logan, MLK Jr. Commission Chair, and more.
Doggett delivered an enthusiastic speech encouraging people to get involved and “leave our own marks.”
“Our country has not lived up to its promise after 50 years,” Doggett said. “It’s up to us to turn down the volume on hate.”
Doggett ended to thunderous applause with, “We need to leave our own marks on society; Ferguson, Florida and Chicago aren’t the only areas of tragedies occurring. They just happened to have a camera.”
“King was not just about dreaming, he was about doing.” Doggett said.
As Taylor took the stage, she thanked everyone for participating in the event and noted she would not be here if not for people like King.
“We are the largest city in the U.S. to have a black woman as mayor, and with only a 7 percent African-American population, we put on the largest MLK march in the nation.” Taylor said.
Throughout the majority of speeches, the message was clear — stay courageous and continue King’s legacy not just today, but every day.