The annual Miami-Dade Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade will go on, despite calls from some in the community to cancel it after last year’s parade festivities ended in gunfire.
The parade’s organizers say it will be a day of family fun and the community should not be concerned.
“We are not going to let it fall apart because someone wants to destroy it,” said Gigi Tinsley, one of the event's organizers, referring to the shootings last year.
Tinsley said this year more than 100 police officers will be in the area and assigned community ambassadors will also be on the parade route to report any suspicious activities to police.
Miami-Dade police did not respond to WLRN’s email about security at the parade.
The parade will be marching along Northwest 54th Street from 10th to 32nd Avenue, and each year it ends in a celebration at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial park, located at 6000 NW 32nd Court, where people eat, dance and listen to music. It is there where two teens opened fire last year, shooting eight people in all. Five of the victims were children under the age of 17. Everyone survived.
The two teens were later arrested, but prosecutors declined to file charges, saying Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law would make it difficult to prove the case to a jury. The self-defense law eliminates a person’'s duty to retreat before using deadly force.
Miami anti-gunviolence activist Tangela Sears prompted a heated a discussion on Facebook this week when she asked in light of the park shooting, “Should the parade be canceled?”
Luther Campbell, former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate, rapper and Miami New Times columnist, compared the shooting with the Boston marathon bombing. After that attack, he wrote, the people in Boston were resolved to continue the marathon despite the horror of that day.
“You start stopping events because of the terrorist in our community you will find yourself eventless and stuck in your house. The terrorists would have won,” he wrote. He also suggested better security.
But there were many who responded that the parade should be canceled altogether.
“I say shut everything down and have a prayer vigil, peace rally,” wrote Shunda Howard.
Sears told WLRN she personally loves the parade, but can’t ignore the very real safety concerns that community members have raised.
“I don’t even think this generation understands the purpose of that day,” she told WLRN, “It’s just unfortunate that so many people in our community fear going because people don’t want to not return home.”
Sears also said she plans to advocate repealing Stand Your Ground, which helped free the shooters from last year’s shooting.
Tinsley, one of the event’s organizers, said she has heard the calls to cancel the parade or eliminate the gathering at the park afterwards, but she was adamant that nothing change in the parade’s format.
“Some of the police officers asked us are we going to cancel, [but] we never thought about it,” she said. “ No.”
Tinsley said on Martin Luther King Jr. Day the parade will go on. There will be new floats and musical performances, and former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, a community icon, will participate on the parade route.
“We’re excited about that,” she said, adding the day will symbolize “service and unity and, most of all, love for each other.”