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Annual march to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will go virtual due to coronavirus concerns

Officials said people argued it's too early to make this decision, but after consulting with Metro Health, they felt it was the safest bet

SAN ANTONIO — Another decades-long tradition in San Antonio is rerouted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of marchers fill the streets of the Alamo City to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's legacy every year. MLK Commission Chair Dr. Keely Petty said their event will go virtual in January 2021.

"It just made sense, looking at Fiesta, looking at what other events of that magnitude have done," Petty said. "It's all about safety and protecting the lives of those who would be marching."

Petty said about 300,000 people attend the event every year.

"We're not dealing with a cough or a cold, we're dealing with a global pandemic," Petty said. "It just didn't feel right in my heart to wonder who was going to be sick afterward."

Petty said some people have said it's too early to make this decision, but after consulting with Metro Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger, they felt it was the safest bet.

"It's never too early to make a decision to save a life," Petty said.

Friday evening, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called the committee's decision "obviously disappointing."

"If there's a window of opportunity perhaps to reconsider -- if the environment changes a little bit -- that's one of the events that we take the most pride in in the community," Nirenberg said.

"It's the largest MLK march in the county, and certainly count me among those who would love to see it happen again, especially given all that we have experienced in the community this year."

Petty said she took the current Black Lives Matter movement into consideration. With the divisiveness our country is facing, she said Dr. King's message about equality is more important than ever.

"His dream is still alive," Petty said. "I'm sure there would've been a large number of Black Lives Matter protesters at the march. It would've been a great gathering place for them."

Petty said they are working out the details for the virtual march. She hopes to have a plan set by November.

"I want it to be classy, I want it to be elegant. I want us to have incredible speakers, incredible music, incredible voices from our scholarship recipients," Petty said. "We're going to be making history."

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