- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

D.C. Council member Marion Barry yesterday canceled the annual Martin Luther King parade in Southeast because of cold weather, a decision that upset some of the hundreds of parents and children who showed up for the event.

“It’s been this cold before, so why would they shut it down?” said Kiwana Tolbert, who bundled up six children and brought them to see the parade yesterday. “It’s ludicrous.”

Angela Moore, who also was among the nearly 300 people who were turned away yesterday, agreed.

“It’s always cold this time of year. I don’t understand it,” she said.

Linda Greene, a spokeswoman for Mr. Barry, defended the newly elected council member’s decision. She said the cancellation had nothing to do with the former mayor’s recent bout with influenza.

She said Mr. Barry, who represents Ward 8, canceled the annual parade at 7:30 a.m. because he was worried about children getting sick from the cold weather. By 1 p.m., when the parade was scheduled to start at Ballou Senior High School, the temperature was 26 degrees, with the wind chill making it feel like 10 degrees.

“We had over 800 kids participating, and he did not want 800 kids in this weather. He did not want them out there for three hours. He did not want to expose them to frostbite and the flu,” Ms. Greene said. “It wasn’t so much the temperature; it was the wind chill. The wind is brutal.”

Mr. Barry was released from Howard University Hospital on Saturday, after a stay at Greater Southeast Hospital earlier in the week.

“He got over the flu, and he’s feeling fine,” Ms. Greene said.

Mr. Barry had the authority to cancel the event because, as the Ward 8 council member, he serves as the parade’s host.

The three-hour parade, which makes its way through Anacostia, was first held 27 years ago at the urging of former D.C. Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark. Singer and songwriter Stevie Wonder served as the parade’s first grand marshal in 1982 after crusading to make King’s birthday a national holiday.

A parade honoring King in Baltimore went on as scheduled and attracted thousands of people yesterday, city officials there said.

“Every year, it seems like the parade falls on one of the coldest days of the year,” said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley. “Of course, we would like it to be warmer, but we still forged ahead.”

William Brockenberry, an organizer of the King parade in the District, was given the job of telling parents, children and a busload of band members that the District’s parade was canceled. Sitting in a car outside Ballou for most of the day yesterday, he said he turned away about 300 people.

“A lot of them were relieved, but some were pretty disappointed,” he said.

He said the parade has been postponed once and canceled at least twice.

Mr. Brockenberry said he agreed with Mr. Barry’s decision to cancel the parade.

“We tried to do it in the snow once, and it was a disaster,” he said. “It’s just too cold. I’m relieved it’s off because it won’t harm the kids.”

However, some of the parents and children who showed up at Ballou said they were ready for the cold and eager to see the parade.

“We were looking forward to the floats, fire trucks and bands,” said Keith Williams, of Odenton, Md., who brought his children along yesterday.

“When it’s colder than this, they’ve still had the parade,” said Javon Cancel, a student at Johnson Junior High School who lives near the parade route.

Jerome Jones, a former member of the Ballou marching band, showed up from his home in Suitland. He said he remembers marching in rain, snow and sleet.

“No matter what, we still always marched,” Mr. Jones said.

Meanwhile, officials organizing the presidential inauguration parade on Thursday said it’s possible but unlikely that weather would force a cancellation.

“We’re encouraged by the forecast,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Alexander, a spokesman for the Joint Task Force-Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.

“It would have to be really cold, extremely cold,” Col. Alexander said. “If for some reason it was too cold for the instruments to play or it was going to be unbearable for humans, then the president would make the decision to go inside and cancel the parade.”

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