Martin Luther King Drive from the Southside to the Eastside became a miles-long river of humanity on Monday as an estimated 300,000 people marched on Martin Luther King Day in a city that has become famous for its annual public commemoration.
The crowd estimate was released by the City's MLK, Jr. Commission, although the hovering presence of what seemed like every available helicopter in the city must have allowed police and other officials to make some fairly accurate measures.
Locals as well as national and international visitors participated in this year's 29th annual MLK March, a day that drew people of all ages, races, and religions to the City's Eastside.
African-Americans make up only 7% of the city's population, but the presence of Mayor Ivy Taylor, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, City Councilman Alan Warrick II and many other black leaders on this day, made for a presence that belied the 7% number. San Antonio's march has always been a diverse gathering, and this year's edition was no different. Hispanic and white elected officials were all part of the vanguard, and the masses behind them marched in one long, integrated column.
"For me (the march) means to remember that we live in a nation that – while it's not perfect – we are continuing to self-correct, we are continuing to make changes to make sure that all human beings are treated with dignity," said Sharon Grant, senior pastor at Greater Ball Tabernacle Church.
Monday was a day for all present to celebrate how far the civil rights movement has brought the nation since the 1960s, yet any sense of celebration was muted by the loss of blacks who have died in police shootings across the country, as well as acts of terrorism at home and abroad. Dr. King's dream of peace and nonviolence remains unrealized, more than one speaker at Pittman-Sullivan Park declared after the march.
"Today we march to remind ourselves that we must always move forward so that progress may never be idled in our cause for social justice for everyone," said state Sen. José Menéndez on stage during the commemoration ceremony at the park. "Remember why we march and let the fight continue."
Look for additional coverage of Monday's historic march later tonight and Tuesday.
*Featured image: Cyna, 9, opens her arms as she dances while her peers from Praise Dance Ministry look on. Photo by Scott Ball.