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MLK Legacy Smeared by Military Recruiters

Dr. Martin Luther King courageously took a stand against war on April 4, 1967. To many Americans, it was his finest hour. Today, military units are perverting and defaming Martin Luther King Day festivities in their desperate effort to recruit more young African Americans. In Dallas, an effort is under way to force the City Council to ban military groups. The Dallas Peace Center has already decided to stop participating in the annual parade and will, instead, hold a non-violence training session in the downtown library on the following day. In San Antonio, progressives are protesting plans to have a military airplane "fly-by" during the annual Martin Luther King March.

The San Antonio march has long been the pride of Texas civil rights supporters. It lays claim to being the second largest in the nation, after Atlanta, and it has never diminished its militancy. The Dallas "march and parade" has been much more a parade with many school bands, political candidates, and corporate sponsors. On the progressive side, Jobs with Justice has managed to get a small delegation of union supporters every year since 1990. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) also has a regular presence. The Dallas Peace Center's participation has been sporadic, but their mighty 2003 contingent dominated the parade's media coverage.

The problem in Dallas has long been the ROTC drill teams, who march in uniform and, in some cases, with non-functioning but very real military rifles. Polite complaints about having rifles in a parade that supposedly celebrates America's most famous pacifist have been registered for years, but 2006 is the first year in which activist groups are being asked to boycott.

On the other side of the argument, gun supporters say that the high schools are just as proud of their ROTC drill teams as they are their bands. Further, they point out that military service offers economic opportunity to minority students that is often better than they would otherwise find. They say that the pacifists, who are primarily Anglos, do not appreciate the economic situation of the African American students.

Anti-war activists point to the disproportionate injuries and deaths suffered by minorities who choose the military.

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