By Peter Mertz
DENVER, the United States, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Wet, slushy streets and scattered snowfall met several thousands of people marching in the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Parade Monday, while activists of all stripes surprisingly stayed away.
"We thought we'd see the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) today but they were just fair weather haters," said Josh McFarlane, 21, a Metropolitan State University political science major.
Local media earlier reported that the notorious KKK, America's oldest hate group founded in the South after the Civil War in 1865, would interfere with the rally, along with members of Black Lives Matter, who disrupted last year's gathering of 30,000.
"Extremists avoided us this year," an event organizer told Xinhua, adding that the only disruption was when Republican U.S. house representative Mike Coffman spoke.
A bevy of local politicians, both Democratic and Republican, addressed the crowd to speak words of praise for the slain African-American civil rights leader, who was assassinated in 1968.
Coffman, an entrenched Colorado Republican, who opposes President Barack Obama's controversial Affordable Care Act (ACA), triggered heckling from the audience when he stepped up to the microphone.
The chant of "no repeal" grew so loud that Coffman's words were lost in the wind, as he failed to acknowledge or address his intention to dismantle Obama's health care initiative.
Martin Luther King parades are traditionally filled with Democrats who honor the civil rights leader, but event organizers said there were many more Republicans present this year.
Monday's 30th annual MLK parade featured U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a well-liked Republican who also opposes Obamacare, but was met with polite applause by the crowd.
"Coffman still hasn't figured it out," heckler Tina James said. "Obamacare is vital to so many of us, and (U.S. President-elect Donald) Trump's anti-Obamacare rhetoric is ridiculous, unattainable, and unrealistic."
Coffman didn't respond to the interruptions during his short, two-minute speech, but two days before the Republican Congressman was forced to sneak out the backdoor of an event he organized due to Obamacare repeal backlash.
Hundreds of protesters on Saturday, angry about the proposed dismantling of Obamacare, confronted Coffman at the Aurora Public Library for a "town hall" meeting that the Republican had promoted.
"He fled through a back door of a building," Kathryn Penn said.
"Coward," Carol Eastes, an activist who joined Monday's 30th annual MLK parade, called Coffman.
Anti-Coffman sentiments surfaced after he co-authored a Denver Post op-ed article on Friday urging the full and immediate repeal of Obama's ACA.
However, about 419,000 Coloradans have gained health care coverage since the enactment of the law, and many could lose their insurance if it is repealed.
"I am potentially going to lose my health insurance," Berthie Ruoff told NBC News. "I have a preexisting condition."
One of Obamacare's signature features is the elimination of medical preexisting conditions that affect millions of Americans who need health care.
Trump said recently, despite repeated campaign rhetoric calling for the complete repeal of the ACA, that he would retain preexisting condition exemption.
But Coffman offered no such hope.
"I've had breast cancer," Ruoff said. "What's going to happen to me? My spouse who had health insurance passed away. What do I do? You know, what am I supposed to do?"