Councilmember Alan Warrick (D2) called a press conference at City Hall Wednesday to issue a formal apology for his plan to change the route of the City’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. March, the largest such march in the country.
Warrick wanted to change the traditional route from its course along Martin Luther King Drive to Pittman-Sullivan Park on the City’s Eastside to five different routes, all of which would converge at HemisFair. He planned to separate those five routes by aspects such as race, sexuality, faith and disabilities.
Warrick, whose district hosts the MLK march, made his apology as Eastside community members stood behind him in support of his decision to leave the march unchanged.
“I want to apologize to the people of District Two,” he said. “I made a mistake in thinking that we could ever take the march out of the Eastside of San Antonio.”
Longtime Eastside resident and community activist Nettie Hinton, Warrick’s aunt, opted to sit on the sidelines instead of standing behind her nephew on City Hall steps.
Eastside community leaders were in uproar after Warrick pitched the plan for the new route without consulting their opinion. A group of Eastside community members issued a petition to recall Warrick from his City Council office after learning about his plan to move the MLK march.
Pastor James Amerson of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Dignowity Hill on the City’s near-Eastside, said he was concerned after hearing about Councilmember Warrick’s plan to change the route.
“This walk has been around for a couple of decades and it means a lot to the Eastside and many people come from outside the city to participate in it,” Amerson said. “This is like our homecoming … and because it was being rearranged without any input it almost felt like (those on the Eastside) weren’t being heard.”
San Antonio’s MLK march started in 1972 and has grown over the years, attracting more than 200,000 people in January this year. The Eastside of San Antonio is a historically African-American community, and the march has been held in this tight-knit community since its start 28 years ago.
Warrick’s reasoning behind the shift in location was to attract a larger, younger crowd that would stir national attention.
“The key (to why I wanted to change the route) is more exposure, bringing our city onto a national level, not just for 30 seconds, but for three hours on CNN,” he said. “How do we get half a million to a million people down here in San Antonio for the march and how to we accommodate all of those people?”
The other part of his intent to rearrange the march to end at HemisFair Park was to engage younger, apathetic community members who do not vote and are not otherwise civically engaged.
“We have a huge chunk of the community that is not participating in our civic life and this is something we need to focus on in the future, but not with the MLK March,” Warrick said, adding that the march route will not change as long as he is the council member for the district.
“The only way to move forward is to learn from our mistakes … and I think we are stronger after this process,” he said.
Councilmember Warrick requested $50,000 during the budget process for funds to improve the MLK March. That money, which would come from the operating budget, would be used to refresh route signs, fix sidewalks as well as other general upgrades.
“This is still a request and is not a guarantee, but I am working hard to ensure its approval,” Warrick stated in a press release.
To address community concerns, Warrick is hosting a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, at the Claude Black Community Center.
“We’ll be there until the last person speaks,” he said. “I have nowhere to go.”
*Correction: A previous version of this story stated the MLK March started in 1987, when in fact the march began in 1972.
*Top image: Alan Warrick stands on the steps of City Hall and publicly apologizes. Photo by Scott Ball.