Spirited parade celebrates Martin Luther King Day in Baltimore

Persistent brisk southwest winds and temperatures hovering in the low 40s failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the spirited crowd that gathered at noon Monday in downtown Baltimore to honor the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

92Q DJ Konan and his sidekick, Erica Kane, shouted to the crowd from the official reviewing stand at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Franklin Street before the parade kicked off, "We're going to have a hot parade on a cold day."

The arrival of police motorcycles, followed by the mounted police unit, signaled the beginning of the parade that featured some 55 marching bands, honor and color guards, equestrian units, fraternal organizations, military groups, political organizations and floats from the Mid-Atlantic region.

Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, who was bundled against the cold in a long coat and sported a leopard-print hat, smiled and waved to the crowd as she marched on foot with members of the City Council.

As Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, also on foot, made his way along the parade route, a spectator shouted, "Get the criminals off the streets."

The crest of emotion remaining after the Ravens defeated Houston on Sunday probably contributed to the rousing reception given to Colts Hall of Famer Lenny Moore, who was riding atop a float.

Perennial local parade favorites included numerous bands, including the Westsiders in their sharp red and white uniforms, the Edmondson-Westside High School Marching Band, and the Frederick Douglass High School Marching Band, known as "The Pride of West Baltimore," which is celebrating its 80th year.

The New Edition Marching Band — some 175 members dressed in blue, white and silver — paused in front of the reviewing stand to perform.

Konan broadcast to the parade-goers that the band's members ranged in age from "5 to 45."

For Diane Johnson, the parade has been an annual event for the last 11 years for her family, including her daughter, Rainie Smith, 40, and granddaughter, Samira Smith, 18.

They had set up camp under the Mulberry Street overpass on a slight rise, which gave them a better view of the parade.

Johnson's mother, Frances Williams, 84, the family matriarch, was bundled up against the winter winds and was watching the parade comfortably from a folding chair.

"We're four generations of family and will soon have about 38 people here," said Johnson, who lives in the city's Rosemont neighborhood, as she pointed to a table she had set up with hot tea, snacks and hot chocolate. "After the parade is over, we all go out and have pizza."

"It's a family event," said Rainie Smith. "We come to remember everything Martin Luther King did for us and how far we still have to go. It's his legacy."

Community Mediation marchers underscored the slain civil rights leader's message of shunning violence, by carrying placards reading "Don't Hate," while Women in Black performed their silent vigil

Members of Baltimore City Women for Obama came along the route shouting, "Four more years!"

Akiya Tolliver, 10, a student at Mount Pleasant Christian School, summed it up as police cars with their flashing lights signaled the parade's end.

"The bands were the best things of all," she said.


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