A small group of activists and candidates gathered outside of Arlington City Hall Monday, protesting Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s involvement in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade in Arlington.
“We will not tolerate this and we call for an effective boycott,” said Minister Dominique Alexander with the Next Generation Action Network.
Alexander's group does not think Abbott is the right choice to be honorary grand marshal because they say he's not been fair to undocumented immigrants, supports bathroom bill legislation and pointed to issues that they believe negatively affect minority communities.
“I don’t know who made the decision to invite Greg Abbott to an MLK parade. I mean, come on,” said Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood.
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In Dallas Tuesday, Abbott said he was looking forward to taking part in the parade and that he represents all Texans. See his statement in the video below.
The governor’s Deputy Communications Director Ciara Matthews said he was invited by the event's organizer and released the following statement on the boycott.
“The parade is an opportunity to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of Dr. King and reflect on the triumphs, tragedies, and lessons of the past. It’s a shame that some are politicizing what should be a unifying event. Gov. Abbott’s participation will be focused on the remembrance of a man who made an important mark on history and he looks forward to attending this event.”
Winsor Barbee, the media contact for the parade, told NBC 5 organizers are aware of the boycott but are focused on the event.
"It is not about who invited the governor, it is about Martin Luther King Jr's legacy," Barbee said.
Though they do not endorse the event and have no involvement in the parade, Arlington NAACP President Alisa Simmons said they are calling on Abbott to decline the invitation. Simmons said the organization supports the right to protest and has organized a town hall for Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church on Park Row in response to Abbott’s participation in the parade.
Meanwhile, the district attorneys in Dallas and Tarrant counties issued statement Monday saying they, too, have no ties to the Arlington event.
Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson also released a statement Monday regarding this parade, saying: “Contrary to misinformation that has been circulated by the promoter, I am not, and never was, participating in the North Texas MLK parade in Arlington. I was never invited to participate by the promoter. I did not participate on any planning committee. My office’s only contact with the parade promoter has been to clarify misinformation. The first I heard about this event was in news reports which stated – to my surprise – that I would be participating. I was not contacted by any media to confirm my involvement. It’s never been my personal practice to participate in parades. I believe my community outreach is better served by being able to listen to individuals in more personal settings.”
A spokesperson for Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson also released a statement today about the Arlington parade, saying “DA Johnson has always maintained that because she is a Grand Marshal in the Dallas MLK parade, she could only be on the last float of the Arlington parade. In her correspondence with Ms. Barbee, Ms. Barbee specifically said that the Governor will not be last, therefore could not be on the same float regardless of the inaccurate [sic] that is out there. This confusion is deflecting from the true meaning of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Monday is about commemorating a great American and serving in the spirit of the example he set for others."
Media Contact Winsor Barbee did not comment on Wilson's statement, and said, "Faith Johnson was never a parade grand marshal and that was never discussed. She was to ride on the float with Gov. Abbott."