Wintry weather no deterrent for Denver’s Martin Luther King Jr. “Marade” marchers

Author: Marianne Goodland - January 15, 2018 - Updated: January 16, 2018

Robert WhiteColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, greets Denver Police Chief Robert White as marchers gather to take part in the annual parade to mark the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in January. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Monday’s quick-hit storm that turned Denver city streets into solid ice may have turned away some of those who planned to participate in the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Marade. But those who came, numbering in the low thousands, marched on, because “there’s still work to be done.”

This year’s Marade (a combination of march and parade) came just a few days after President Donald Trump reportedly told a gathering of senators that he wanted immigrants from Norway rather than those from “shitholes” like Africa, El Salvador or Haiti.

Former Mayor Wellington Webb told The Denver Post he wouldn’t talk “about that white nationalist in the White House,” during Denver’s MLK Marade. “If we can survive slavery, we can survive that man in the White House.”

But that didn’t stop others from speaking about it at the Marade and the ceremony at Denver’s Civic Center Park. Signs blasting the White House’s current resident dotted the marade route.

Keynote speaker Ryan Ross, formerly of the Community College of Denver and now leading the Urban Leadership Foundation of Denver, reminded the crowd about Trump’s remarks, although he didn’t mention Trump by name.

“It’s been a great morning,” Ross said. “But I can’t help but wonder what will happen tomorrow …. Although today we see an illumination of pure joy, I have to remind us that there’s still much work to do. When the leader of the free world is an open racist, and those around him won’t hold him accountable, there’s much work to do! When the leader of the free world can publicly talk about people from other countries, saying they’re from holes, there’s much work to do! When we witness a young man attacked and lose his livelihood simply because he took a knee for justice, there’s much work to do!” (The latter reference was to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.)

Those in attendance included Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Gov. John Hickenlooper, and former Rep. and first lady Wilma Webb, who led the effort to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in Colorado.

Plenty of politicians, although not as many as last year, also walked with the marade crowd, including Phil Weiser and George Brauchler, both running for attorney general; state Rep. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park, a candidate for state treasurer; gubernatorial candidates Noel Ginsburg and Michael Johnston; and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Denver. UPDATE: Also among the marchers, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder; Reps. Leslie Herod and Jovan Melton of Denver and state Sen. Angela Williams, also of Denver.

While not at the marade, Senate President Kevin Grantham and Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran both had something to say about Monday’s observance.

“Because he had a dream in 1963, America is a better place today, in 2018,” Grantham said. “We must never forget men like Dr. King, who dedicated their lives to ensuring equality under the law and equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of the color of their skin. Let us take today to remember Dr. King, his legacy, and the amazing impact he has had on this country.”


Alan Salazar, Hancock’s chief of staff, also marched. “Right now at this time, given where we are with the Trump administration, there’s no more important time, no matter how cold it is, to show that this is what America is, not what’s in the Oval Office,” he told Colorado Politics.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.