Martin Luther King Jr. and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Martin Luther King Jr. and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Library of Congress and Gage Skidmore

Arlington Denies Permit to Controversial, Abbott-Led Martin Luther King Jr. Parade

Barring a last-minute appeal, the Arlington Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade that's stirred controversy for choosing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as its honorary grand marshal will not happen. The organizers of the parade failed to follow the steps necessary to get an event permit for the parade, the city of Arlington said Thursday night.

"As accommodating as we've been throughout the process, we've just not been able to get the organizers to meet the [city's] requirements to host this special event," Arlington City Manager Trey Yelverton told the Arlington NAACP last night. "At the end of the day for the city, it's not about content; it's about process."

Yelverton said the parade's organizers hadn't paid the fees necessary to cover the city resources, including police officers needed to provide security. "Our special events ordinance stipulates all those requirements so that the taxpayers aren't the ones providing the event, so that it's the special event themselves that are covering those costs," Yelverton said.

Winsor Barbee, the parade's executive producer, told reporters Thursday night that the event was $65,000 short of paying Arlington's permit fees. She blamed a proposed boycott of the parade over Abbott's involvement for sponsors' decision to pull their support. She said the parade's organizers didn't even know if they wanted the show to go on.

"Do we move forward, or do we hold up, because we were all concerned?" Barbee said.

Last week, the Arlington NAACP announced its opposition to the parade, citing Abbott's record on things such as voting rights, education funding and immigration as evidence that he shouldn't be part of a celebration of King's legacy.

"It is the firm opinion of the Arlington NAACP that the selection of Governor Greg Abbott as Honorary Grand Marshal of any event honoring Dr. King stings with hypocrisy," the group said in a statement. "As we review his career and public service, it is fair to say that Greg Abbott has done more to damage and undermine African-American and Latino civil and voter rights, educational opportunities and economic empowerment than any other modern-day Texas governor."

While Abbott's office criticized the NAACP for politicizing the event, local League of United Latin American Citizens and AFL-CIO groups announced this week they would help the NAACP protest the parade.

Barbee said organizers plan to appeal the city's decision, but Yelverton said the group had already missed several deadlines, making the parade impossible to pull off.

"It's just not happening at this point," he said.

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