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Martin Luther King, Jr. parade marches on with some changes due to COVID-19

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Posted at 10:57 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 23:16:56-05

CINCINNATI — The coronavirus pandemic is forcing several changes to this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative march downtown. The parade is still happening, next Monday, Jan. 18, and among the changes are a motorcade of folks waiting to participate from the safety of the inside of a vehicle.

“The march is a great opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those who have come before us," said Martha Viehmann with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition.

This year marks the 46th march from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and this year will look different than the last 45.

“Our theme this year is one of Dr. King’s well-known phrases: ‘we’ll never be satisfied until justice rolls down like water,’” MLK Coalition program coordinator Louise Lawarre said.

She said their goal is to keep the conversation flowing like that same water.

“To energize people to stay motivated,” Lawarre said.

This year, people marching will be wearing masks. Trailing behind them will be several buses and, for the first time, a motorcade.

“Folks can be safe in their own car with no more than their own personal bubble of family,” Lawarre said. “Drive the march.”

So far, 70 cars have already registered.

“This year it’ll be a very different look,” Viehmann said. “But I still expect we’ll see a lot of people and I hope a lot of people will find ways to join in to wherever they feel safe and comfortable.”

For those unable to attend, Viehmann said there’s several options, one of which will be 1320 AM radio.

“They’ll broadcast freedom songs, and they’ll invite people to speak from the motorcade as we’re in the march, as we’re going.”

In years past, the group would stop at Music Hall for a ceremony. This year, due to crowd size restrictions, a recorded ceremony will be available online through the end of the month.

Organizers said the double pandemic of COVID-19 and racism is reason enough to pound the pavement.

“Both of these things take away lives and take away economic opportunity,” Viehmann said. “So all of us have to join together and be inspired by King’s vision and work together.“

Information about how you can register your vehicle to be included in the march as well as more information, including a timeline for Monday’s event, can be found here.