Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade: Thousands ignore rumors and pack streets for MLK Day parade

1:44 PM, Jan 21, 2013   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- Thousands of people ignored rumors and lined the route of St. Pete's Drum Major for Justice Parade on Monday.

Waving to the crowd, surrounded by his family on a big purple float, was Brady Johnson.

Dr. King is why Brady Johnson spent Monday standing atop that parade float. Dr. King is why Brady Johnson is who he is.

Johnson grew up in Selma, Alabama. As a boy, he says he marched for equality in peaceful protests led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"When Dr. King would come in and start speaking -- being an 8, 9, 10 year old kid -- you sort of had the tendency to be playing around," Johnson remembered.

"But once he walked in, the excitement he brought in... even then, chills and things ran through my body just to hear him speak about equality to all people. He wasn't there for blacks -- he was there for all people."

This week is Johnson's last on the job before he retires. He's spent 44 years with St. Pete's Sanitation Department.

That career choice was also inspired by the peaceful minister and powerful leader honored in Monday's celebration. Johnson started working in sanitation in 1969, one year after Dr. King was murdered in Memphis.

"It was unfairness at the sanitation department in Memphis -- that's why he was there," Johnson said. "You had a separation. I don't believe in separate but equal. I really don't believe that... I figure people should be treated fairly."

"I was inspired by Martin Luther King, and I was inspired, and I decided to retire on his birthday."

"Keeping the dream alive" was the message marked in white block letters on the side of Johnson's purple parade float.

But someone has been working against that dream. Parade organizers say for the third straight year, someone launched a rumor campaign to tell people the Drum Major for Justice Parade had been called off.

Judging by the number of floats, marching bands, and fans along the route Monday, plenty of people got the right message -- that the parade was still on, and the dream is still going strong.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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