What to know about Denver’s 2020 MLK Day parade — and the dueling event from Black Lives Matter and the Poor People’s Campaign

Some disagree with how the city government honors the civil rights hero.
3 min. read
The Martin Luther King Jr. statue in City Park, Jan. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver's long-held tradition of honoring Martin Luther King Jr. with a "marade" -- a march and a parade -- returns Monday, as will a protest event hosted by Black Lives Matter 5280 and the Colorado Poor People's Campaign.

More than 30,000 people are expected to walk the route from the Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream Memorial at City Park to the Greek Theater at Civic Center Park.

The marade has a long and varied history in Denver. White supremacists held a counter-event in 1992 that erupted in violence, but the city overcame the hate and continues to hold one of the largest MLK remembrances in the country.

More recently, the marade has dealt with money problems that caused organizers to cut scholarships, among other things. But the event has also unified the city in divisive times.

Political leaders including Mayor Michael Hancock, Gov. Jared Polis and former Gov. John Hickenlooper will kick off the marade at City Park. The purpose of the holiday is to "unify and educate communities," the marade's website states.

Activists from the Colorado Poor People's Campaign, the local chapter of a national movement started by King in 1967, and Black Lives Matter 5280, the local chapter of the national anti-discrimination movement, will hold a separate MLK event -- and a protest of the city's camping ban policy -- at City Park.

It will take place literally along the marade route at Thatcher Fountain.

The route of the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Marade and the location of a Black Lives Matter 5280 event in City Park.

"The reason we are taking this action this year is specifically addressing what we feel is very flagrant hypocrisy among city officials in spending money, putting pomp and circumstance into a photo op parade about Dr. King, supposedly, while at the same time aggressively and very intentionally criminalizing the least among us, which is who Dr. King was fighting for," Black Lives Matter 5280 co-founder Amy Brown said in an interview.

Mayor Hancock was unavailable to comment on the protest, his spokesman said.

"Many local organizations use the day and event for advocacy, which is in keeping with the spirit of the day," spokesman Mike Strott said. "Like every year, the mayor will be taking part in the marade to join with the thousands of Denver and metro area residents celebrating the life and work of Dr. King."

Speakers will call for two things, including a repeal of Denver's urban camping ban, which prohibits people without homes from sleeping in public areas. Protesters will also demand the city government halt an appeal of the ruling last month that found the camping ban unconstitutional.

If you're going to the marade: The event starts at 9:30 a.m. below the King statue at City Park (near 17th Avenue and Detroit Street). The marade will proceed south via the Esplanade to Colfax Avenue, then west on Colfax Avenue to State Capitol grounds before heading to Civic Center Park. People walking and rolling the route will leave at 10:45 a.m. The first ever "ride the marade" for bicyclists will leave City Park at 11:15 a.m.

If you're going to the Poor People's Campaign/Black Lives matter event: The event starts at 8:30 a.m. at City Park's Thatcher Fountain (near 17th Avenue and the Esplanade.

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