Days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the scene that played out among the Greater Arlington Missionary Baptist Church’s wooden pews was, in some ways, reminiscent of the civil rights movement from decades before. Civil rights activists and social justice advocates had gathered to plan a protest. They talked about the fight for equity and the importance of standing up for their community. And they discussed the role of a collective voice to draw attention to the grievances laid out by the NAACP’s Arlington branch over the selection of Gov. Greg Abbott as the North Texas MLK parade’s honorary grand marshal. Abbott “has done more to damage and undermine African-American and Latino civil and voter rights” than any modern-day governor, the NAACP-Arlington said. It pointed, in part, to the role of Abbott, a former attorney general, in both defending and advocating for redistricting maps and strict voter ID requirements that have been tangled up in court for years over concerns they discriminate against Texans of color.
Abbott’s response to that criticism came in a tweet, saying that the parade would be a “worthy celebration” and that he served as governor for all Texans. “I’m a Christian, I’ve committed my life to ensuring justice, I come in peace,” Abbott wrote.
But amid the controversy surrounding Abbott’s selection, sponsors had backed out of the parade, leaving organizers tens of thousands of dollars short of the necessary funds for an event permit, and Abbott’s parade appearance was over before it began.