Selection of Tom Wine to lead Louisville MLK Day parade creates - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Selection of Tom Wine to lead Louisville MLK Day parade creates controversy

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Tom Wine speaks to WDRB Nov. 23, 2015. Tom Wine speaks to WDRB Nov. 23, 2015.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An annual parade honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. in Louisville is designed to promote unity, but controversy surrounding this year's parade is causing division.

The Martin Luther King Day parade will roll down west Broadway on Monday, but some are not happy about who will be an honored guest.

George Burney began the parade 44 years ago as a way to honor King's legacy. He says the message this year is about stopping the violence.

"Get along as sisters and brothers and stop killing each other. That's the main thing I want you to do is stop the killing," Burney told WDRB News.

But a dispute over Burney's selection of Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine as a grand marshal threatens to overshadow that message.

"It's a complete slap in the face, and disregard to the issue at hand," said activist Chanelle Helm.

Wine is locked in an ongoing legal dispute with Circuit Judge Olu Stevens over the racial makeup of juries. It has led Kentucky's Chief Justice to remove Stevens from some criminal cases.

Helm, of the organization Stand Up Louisville, says Wine has no business leading a civil rights parade.

"We're talking about a parade that is celebrating the strides that civil rights leaders have taken to get us where we need to be, which is economically and socially free. And that's not Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine at all," she said.

But Burney says Wine has been a long-time supporter of his organization, PRIDE, and its efforts to help kids.

"He takes up his time and comes in on a Saturday from where he lives, leaves his family and comes in and comes in and gets with my kids," said Burney.

Wine says he is honored that Burney is recognizing him. He says it’s unfortunate that some are taking a legal issue personally, but he has no plans to step aside as grand marshal.

"I don't care about me. I could not be in that parade, and I'd be fine. But George Burney deserves better," Wine told WDRB News.

Helm says she plans to lead a parade protest on Monday.

"We will be there to ensure that Tom Wine does not take part in the parade," she said.

"I want you to protest. If there's something you don't like, protest it. But protest it peacefully," responded Burney . 

Ironically, on Sunday, Burney will receive the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom award from Mayor Greg Fischer for his long-time civil rights activism.

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