Coloradans have been marching in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., for 35 years now.
Some “Marades” have been headier than others. Like in 1992 when skinheads and white supremists swore at and spit on marchers, prompting chaos in the streets. And in 2009, when Barack Obama was about to swear-in as the first black president. And in 2016, when Black Lives Matter commandeered an event its members said had become co-opted by corporate sponsors and elected officials who’ve forgotten their roots.
Today’s Marade was cold. Not just the snowy morning 19-degree chill. But cold in a deeper sense – the kind of chill that, five decades after Dr. King’s death, comes from frustration with a president whose words and policies many said has set the civil rights movement back – way back. A minion of elected officials tried to put a happy face on the situation.
“50 years later, it may seem dark today, but we are shining brighter,” Sen. Michael Bennet told the crowd, urging them to “stand up” to Trump’s administration.
“If we outlasted and survived slavery, we can outstand this man in the White House,” added former Mayor Wellington Webb.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette took another tact, calling upon the crowd to fight bigotry with love.
For some marchers, the platitudes fell flat.
“Words. Too many words. Let’s move,” grumbled Bud Thompson, a longtime civil rights activist who moved to Denver from Missouri earlier this month and wanted to march rather than listen. Thompson’s grumbles seemed to be shared by the crowd, which livened and lightened up once the speeches stopped and they were able to work their way from Denver’s City Park toward Civic Center downtown.
As the two-block long mass of people began working its way west, the sun broke through the morning clouds and many said they could finally start feeling their toes again.
Thompson, 63, was wearing the same pair of brown workboots he had worn to see Obama inaugurated nine years ago and to march against police after they killed Mike Brown in Ferguson in 2014.
“I don’t know what kind of comments you’re looking for,” he told The Independent. “I’m a guy who lets these boots do the talking.”
Photographer Kevin Mohatt took his camera to the event. Here are some of his best shots.
All photos by Kevin Mohatt.