St. Patrick’s Day Peace Parade Offers Alternative for Anti-War, LGBTQ Groups

SOUTH BOSTON, Mass.—For the fourth year in a row, a second, smaller parade wound through the streets of South Boston behind the marchers in the historic St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is organized by the South Boston Allied War Veterans’ Council. The  St. Patrick’s Day Peace Parade is organized by Veterans for Peace and Massachusetts Peace Action. It began in 2011, after Veterans for Peace were denied a permit to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade due to the council’s objection to the group’s name. The Smedley D. Butler Brigade, the Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace, quickly assembled 500 people and created their own parade event. The Peace Parade is meant to be welcoming and inclusive, with a focus on peace, equality and jobs.

The St. Patrick’s Peace Parade organizers reached out to the LGBTQ community since the parade’s beginning, due to the ongoing exclusion of openly gay groups of marchers from the St. Patrick’s Day parade.  This year, the statewide human rights group MassEquality, which marched in the Peace Parade in 2012 and 2013, wanted to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day parade with a group of openly gay veterans marching with Mayor Martin Walsh. However, they were not going to be allowed by the Veteran’s Council to use any signs or clothing with the word “gay,” or any other kind of statement declaring sexual orientation. MassEquality was unwilling to march without using its rainbow flag and a banner identifying the veterans as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Kara Coredini, Executive Director of MassEquality, stated in a press release that “MassEquality has been clear from the beginning that we would march openly and honestly or not at all.” The Council stated in a press release that its rules prohibit signs of sexual orientation, not gay people themselves, and also claimed that they “were unable to find any evidence of LGBTQ Veterans for Equality that would confirm them as a recognized veteran’s organization” and that they felt “misled” by LGBTQ Veterans for Equality, claiming their application was a “ploy” meant to get them into the parade “under false pretenses.” The council also noted, “We will not allow any group to damage the Integrity [sic] of the historic event or our reputation as a safe and fun filled [sic] day for all.”

After trying to broker a compromise between the two groups, Mayor Walsh ultimately decided not to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade himself, and released a statement which noted, in part, “As Mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city.” Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey also refused to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, as did all ten candidates for governor.

The St. Patrick’s Peace Parade marches in eight divisions, including Veterans, Peace, LGBTQ, Faith, Environmental, Social and Economic Justice, Labor and Political. The parade now involves more than 2,000 people. Parade organizer Pat Scanlon, a Vietnam War veteran and coordinator of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade, wrote on the group’s Facebook page of his wish “to end this last vestige of institutionalized exclusion, prejudice, bigotry and homophobia and make this parade inclusive and welcoming to all and bring the message of peace to South Boston on St. Patrick’s Day.” He also stated, “When the LGBTQ community is able to walk in that parade, and can openly express who they are, and we are also allowed to march, as vets who have dutifully served this country and paid a high price, we will join their parade. We don’t want two parades, we want one parade that is open and welcome and inviting to everyone.”

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