City officials on Thursday canceled a controversial Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade that was to have included Gov. Greg Abbott as the honorary grand marshal and served as a six-county celebration of the late civil rights leader’s work.
City officials said the decision was made because organizers of the Toyota North Texas Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade had “failed to meet event planning and security-related funding requirements.”
The parade was billed as a way to combine MLK events in Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Kaufman and Collin counties in one regional celebration. But critics quickly spoke out against Abbott’s inclusion, with some calling for a boycott or other protest.
Arlington’s special events ordinance requires a permit for parades on public streets, public parks or other outdoor spaces owned by the city, and organizers are required to pay the costs of covering costs for traffic management and event security.
City Manager Trey Yelverton said the city has “been accommodating and there was a final request and that request was not fulfilled.”
“There is a significant burden and we have to be sure that burden is not borne by the taxpayers,” he said. “When we came down to four days before the event was supposed to take place and the costs burdens had not been met we had to cancel the event.”
Event spokesman Winsor Barbee said the group was about $60,000 short.
“Everything to put the parade together costs about $250,000,” Barbee said. “We need to pay about $60,000 because some of the sponsors pulled their funding because of the threat of a boycott.”
Barbee said the decision to cancel the parade will leave many people disappointed.
“Dance groups were excited about coming here to perform,” Barbee said. “I was talking to bands earlier and there are charter buses ready to hit the road. We’re talking about a whole lot of kids who are going to be mad. People got lost with Gov. Abbott and did not think about what are you doing to the community.”
Alisa Simmons, president of the National Association of Colored People Arlington branch, and other critics cheered when they heard that the parade was a no-go.
“I’m so glad the NAACP does not have to protest something with Martin Luther King’s name on it on Martin Luther King Day,” Simmons said. “We cannot have a governor with the practices and beliefs of Abbott representing Martin Luther King.
“I don’t think we’ve ever gotten this much engagement on Twitter and Facebook so we knew we had to do something,” she added.
Critics had gathered at Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday evening to discuss what steps to take if the parade had gone as scheduled.
“We’ve been planning for the past two days how and where to protest and even how to go to jail,” Pastor Kennedy Jones said.
Arlington’s traditional Advancing the Dream celebration, hosted by the Arlington Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee, will take place as scheduled from Friday to Monday. The events are listed at www.ArlingtonMLK.com.