Kathy Lighten has been attending the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in downtown Las Vegas since it began more than three decades ago. She said her family and friends set up chairs, blankets and snacks at the same place every year, near the beginning of the parade route along Fourth Street.
“It is a family tradition,” said Lighten, 59, whose Jan. 16 birthday falls a day after King’s.
Lighten’s group was among of hundreds of families who braved strong winds Monday morning to watch high school dance teams, marching bands, politicians and others in the city’s 37th annual parade. The parade’s theme: “Living the Dream: One People, One Nation, One Dream,” is a message of “peace, love and unity,” Wendell Williams, president and founder of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday.
Regina Wilson, 48, watched the parade with Lighten. She said she came out “to show support and love for someone who fought so hard for us.”
Wilson and Lighten wore black T-shirts with King’s portrait, birthdate (Jan. 15, 1929) and date of death (April 4, 1968).
“Love and respect,” the shirts read underneath the dates.
Angela Anderson’s family also braved the cool temperatures for a spot near the start of the parade at 10 a.m. Her grandchildren, bundled up in hats and blankets, whimpered at the cold, but Anderson was committed to watching the whole parade.
“I love to see the performances; all of the kids work so hard for this day,” Anderson said.
Crystal Smith, who attended the parade with the other two women, said she likes to use the day to think about the progress made on civil rights.
“We have come a long way,” said Smith, 44.
Leticia Hunt, 28, echoed Smith’s thoughts. Wearing a leather beret embroidered with the word “resist, ” Hunt said she attended the parade to celebrate black history and to recognize how far women, especially black and Hispanic women, have come in society.
“We’ve come so far, and we should celebrate that, but we do still have so far to go,” Hunt said.
Though the parade’s message was one of peace and unity, police responded to “several” fights during the event, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Jason Johansson said. In at least one fight, officers took two males into custody. After the parade, officers cleared people from the area before reopening the road. A Metro sergeant told a Review-Journal reporter and photographer that the sweep was in an effort to prevent possible fights.
It was unclear Monday night how many arrests were made at the parade.
At last year’s event, Metro arrested 23 minors and six adults in multiple fights.