San Antonians take part in the 2014 MLK March. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
San Antonians take part in the 2014 MLK March. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

A community of local social justice groups are coming together to “reclaim” the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March slated for Monday, Jan. 19.

According to representatives from the San Antonio People’s Movement Assembly, growth of the MLK March has brought with it political and corporate opportunism, which they say has stolen the true meaning of community activism from the march. The Movement Assembly includes a wide range of voices and causes under its umbrella, but other major awareness messages of the protest will include incidents of police brutality and racial injustice.

“We feel there has been a departure in the true essence of the march as a platform to protest and unite the community,” wrote Southwest Workers Union organizer Kim Rendon in an email.

Organizers are using the #ReclaimMLKSA hashtag on social media.

The city-sponsored MLK march is one of the largest such marches in the United States, attracting nearly 175,000 participants in 2014.

Monday evening, leaders from organizations that included the Southwest Workers Union, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, the Martinez Street Women’s Shelter, SATX4, San Antonio Justice for Palestine, San Anto Cop Watch, and other groups filled the Movement Gallery at 1416 E. Commerce to plan a peaceful protest for the Jan. 19 march.

Details are yet to be finalized, but organizers plan to host a “die-in,” in which people simulate death by lying still on the ground, and a rally.

SATX4 received attention for a North Star Mall die-in held during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas shopping season. About 200 individuals laid silently on the mall floor for nearly 20 minutes, symbolically protesting the deaths of young African-American men across the county, including San Antonio local Marquis Jones who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer last year. Protesters then walked through the mall to the nearby intersection of Loop 410 and McCullough Avenue in an attempt to close the intersection.

Two of the organizers, Mike Lowe and Lawrence Naylor, were arrested for impeding traffic. Rivard Report writer Miles Terracina was at the scene and said police had already secured a barricade using 10 police cruisers to block traffic.

This isn’t the first time local organizers have pressed for a change in the organization of the march. In 2014, the San Antonio Express News reported that a delegation of 10 social injustice organizations marched to protest what they called a “takeover” of the MLK march by large corporations and politicians.

The City sponsors and organizes the march through the MLK, Jr. Commission. Planning for each event begins a year in advance. Protesters claim that the order in which organizations are represented during the march favors corporations, placing community activists towards the end. The order of organizations within the march is decided on a first come, first served basis, said MLK, Jr. Commission Co-chair Nathaniel Davis.

Charges of police brutality and racism have become the center of discussions, nationally and locally. Recently retired San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told City Council late last year that he was recommending all officers be equipped with body cameras in the future to create visual records of arrests and other incidents, and to help build public confidence.

As a Malcolm X quotation from the SATX4’s Facebook page puts it: “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.”

*Featured/top image: San Antonians take part in the 2014 MLK March. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

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Kay Richter

Kay Richter is a native of San Antonio. She attended Texas State University – San Marcos where she studied journalism and history. She has been a reporter for several community newspapers in south and...