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COVID-19 halts in-person San Antonio MLK March once again

For a second straight year, an official in-person march won't happen in the Alamo City.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio's annual Martin Luther King Jr. March, the biggest event of its kind in the country attracting hundreds of thousands of participants, is going virtual for a second straight year due to surging COVID-19 cases in the community. 

The news was confirmed to KENS 5 by Renee Watson, chair of the San Antonio Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, on Thursday night. The event is scheduled for Jan. 17. 

Watson spoke with KENS 5's Sue Calberg about how the MLK Commission will continue to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., despite the march being held virtually. 

See the full interview below:

After a two hour debate, the commission ended with an 8-4 vote Thursday night  in deciding not to have the in-person event. Instead, Pittman-Sullivan Park, where the march typically headquarters, will be used as a COVID-19 testing and vaccine site. 

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, the San Antonio city councilmember representing District 2, told KENS 5 he expects residents to show up and participate in whatever form this year's event ends up taking.

“My initial reaction is that I’m very disappointed," he said. "I appointed each of the commission members and my hope was that they would be able to find some creative solution. Especially this last-minute (development), it's going to be really difficult to pull off a virtual march in a way that was done last year when they had a year to plan it.”

DreamWeek, a city-wide summit filled with events promoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision, is set to continue with in-person programming.  

The first MLK March was held Jan. 19, 1987, launched by the MLK Commission and the City of San Antonio, according to the city's website. 2021 was the first year that an official in-person march was suspended. 

2022 has begun with a coronavirus surge unlike any wave that San Antonio saw last year, with more than 21,000 diagnoses tallied by Metro Health in its first six days. More than 600 local residents are hospitalized with the virus for the first time since September as the community battles the contagious omicron variant.