3rd annual alternative parade promotes social justice in the face of historic exclusion — Read organization’s reactions here.
By: Lauren Walleser/TRT Reporter–
On Sunday, March 17th, Veterans for Peace will lead the Third Annual Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade, the Alternative People’s Parade for Peace, Equality, Jobs, Environmental Stewardship and Economic Justice, a response to the exclusion of Veterans for Peace and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) groups from the historic St. Patrick’s Parade in South Boston.
The Allied War Veterans Council organizes the St. Patrick’s Parade and is allowed to deny any group’s participation based on the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston.
Pat Scanlon, Coordinator for Veterans for Peace, Chapter 9, Smedley Butler Brigade, has been working for peace since returning from serving in the Vietnam War. His passion for the environment, labor, social and economic issues led him to take up the cause of the St. Patrick’s Peace Parade.
“The Hurley Decision gave the legal right for the Allied War Veterans Council to discriminate against anyone they wish to discriminate against, for what ever reason they choose and they don’t have to tell anyone why, not the local community, the police, the City of Boston, no one,” Scanlon said. “We understand the legality that they can discriminate and deny veterans, peace groups and LGBT groups from participating. We do not understand the morality of such actions.”
According to Scanlon, when Veterans for Peace were denied the right to participate in the parade in 2011, they were told it was because The Allied War Veterans Council “does not want to have the word peace associated with the word veteran.” Shortly thereafter, Veterans for Peace filed a permit to start their own parade, inviting LGBTQ groups to participate as well.
“When there is an injustice against one, it is really an injustice against all of us,” said Scanlon, who was also born on March 17th. “I am proud to stand arm in arm with my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, as is every member of our chapter of Veterans For Peace.”
This year’s parade, said Scanlon, will have six bands and even more groups and attendees than last year’s participation of 2,000 people. The parade has eight divisions: Veterans For Peace, Peace, Religious, LGBT, Labor-Jobs, Environmental Stewardship, Political, Economic and Social Justice.
“We are trying to win the hearts and minds of those celebrating in South Boston,” Scanlon said. “This is a working class neighborhood and for the past two years the residents of South Boston have warmly and enthusiastically welcomed us.”
While the City of Boston does not sponsor or organize the St. Patrick’s Parade, they do provide an estimated $300,000 in services for the parade, including police presence and other public safety efforts. While Scanlon praised Mayor Menino for not walking in the parade due to the exclusion of certain groups, Scanlon said he believed the City of Boston should take back the organizing of the parade.
Emilee Ellison, spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, gave the following statement:
“The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a private parade run by the Allied War Veteran’s council. The Mayor does not march in this parade because he feels strongly in his position that everyone should be included. This case was taken to court and the City lost an historic and controversial case that allows for the Allied Veterans to hold their parade without interference from Government. The City supports many cultural events throughout Boston and it would not be responsible of the City to withhold public safety and other basic city services from an event that draws thousands of people to our neighborhoods. Other parades are given permits to have their own events.”
Scanlon and other event participants repeatedly stated that they do not want to shut down the St. Patrick’s Parade or do away with the tradition; their goal is still to eventually have one, inclusive parade for all.
“South Boston has always been one of my communities,” said Kay Walsh, project coordinator of South Boston CAN Reduce Underage Drinking. “I have sent out a petition asking the Allied War Veteran to have one inclusive parade because it is the right thing to do.”
Walsh also noted that the St. Patrick’s Peace Parade has had to march behind the street cleaners, one mile behind the Allied War Veterans Council’s parade, which she found offensive.
“I am Irish, first generation on both sides, Catholic, an American and remember going to Parade with my father,” she said. “He said ‘here march the leaders, the people with power, some are good and some are not.’ Only in America do all the people have a voice and places to speak and this parade is one of those places. “
In 2012, MassEquality filed an application to march in the St. Patrick’s Parade and were also denied.
“The exclusion of openly LGBTQ people from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is representative of more life-altering rejection that LGBTQ people face in Massachusetts every day,” said Kara Suffredini, Executive Director of MassEquality. “MassEquality is working to ensure that everyone across Massachusetts can thrive from cradle to grave without discrimination or oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This takes continued effort to change laws and sustained effort to change hearts and minds. As we continue to change laws and attitudes, I do believe that there will be a day when openly LGBTQ people are welcomed into the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. And all that will take is for the parade organizations to approve our application to march.”
Tony Flaherty, a Veteran for Peace and Co-Coordinator with Scanlon, shared why he believes this issue is important.
“The suppression of voices for peace, and civil rights of gays and lesbians could not exist without the complicit silence of the political establishment of the state, and the media,” Flaherty said. “My main objection is the pollution of the minds of children by promoting the glory of dying for wars of lies, enriching the prosperous and their political servants.”
Scanlon claims that the militaristic tone of the St. Patrick’s Parade—which also celebrates Evacuation Day, the day the British were run out of Boston—does not fall in line with the tradition of celebrating Irish heritage.
“A little over a hundred years ago it was the Irish who were out in the streets of Boston demonstrating against discrimination against the Irish,” he said. “Our parade is in the best of Irish traditions, walking the same streets as our forbearers, demonstrating against discrimination. How ironic that in 2013, these self anointed keepers of what they believe is in the best interest of the Irish community of South Boston can be so wrong. They are now out of touch with of the very community they claim to represent. Their parade sadly no longer represents the attitudes of the majority of residents of South Boston. That in and of itself is a real shame.”
The St. Patrick’s Peace Parade will begin to assemble at 2 p.m. on March 17th and commence at 3 p.m. The starting location will be at D Street and West Broadway in South Boston. [See their Ad in The Rainbow Times below].