Military Flyover Sparks Martin Luther King Day Protest in Texas
A flyover by Air Force jets during this city’s Martin Luther King Day celebration last week sparked a protest by Iraq war opponents who said the military presence ran counter to the teachings of the late civil rights leader.
The San Antonio commemoration — a three-mile march followed by festivities at a city park — attracts tens of thousands of participants each year, making it one of the nation’s largest King Day events.
The holiday was also marked with gatherings in other Texas cities.
The anti-war group in San Antonio, numbering perhaps two dozen, chanted “Shame” while two Air Force T-1A Jayhawk training jets flew overhead, a first in the event’s 20-year history. Later protesters released a pair of white doves.
Members of the group, who were mostly White, also sang protest songs that drowned out speeches from the podium lauding King and his legacy.
Bexar County constables threatened the protesters with eviction from the park for creating a disturbance, while some Blacks in the audience shouted them down for intruding on their event.
“Take it to the White House — go tell Bush,” yelled Carolyn Webster. “This is Martin Luther King Day. This is about peace and unity.”
Phil Schulman, one of the protesters, conceded that the group may have gone too far by interrupting the official program, but he said its message was consistent with King’s message.
“Dr. Martin Luther King asked a lot of himself, and he asks a lot of us,” said Schulman, a pastor at a Unitarian Universalist church in San Antonio. “Everyone wants to claim Dr. King, but if you want to claim him, you have to follow his legacy and stand up for peace and justice.”
Dan Alcantara carried a large sign urging people to “Honor the genius of Dr. King, challenge the arrogance of King George.”
“This is one of the last positive, venting things you can do for your country,” Alcantara said.
This year’s march included a 1950s-era bus to honor civil-rights pioneer Rosa Parks, who started a bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat to a White man. Parks died late last year at age 92.
The flyover was by members of Randolph Air Force Base’s 99th Flying Training Squadron, successor to the first Black fighter squadron from the World War II-era Tuskegee Airmen.
In Austin, hundreds took part in a rally at the state Capitol that featured choir music and rhythm from high school drummers.
Children played on the grounds while adults listened to music and speeches. Some in the crowd held signs promoting peace and echoing King’s famous words, including “I have a dream” and “We shall overcome some day.”
Rev. Dave Haney, senior pastor at Riverbend Church, led the crowd in prayer, saying “Embrace that which unites us.”
A number of the participants marched the few blocks from the King statue at the University of Texas to the Capitol. The celebration later moved a mile or so away to a music and culture festival at Huston-Tillotson University, a small, historically Black college.
— Associated Press
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