Why the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade?

Peoples Parade for Peace, Equality, Jobs, Social and Economic Justice

Pat Scanlon

Sunday, March 18, 2012, 2pm - Broadway MBTA Station, South Boston - look for VfP Flags

Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was a man of peace. Saint Patrick’s Day should be a day to celebrate Saint Patrick and the Irish heritage of Boston and the contributions of the Irish throughout American history. In Boston the parade should be a day to celebrate the changes in our culture, the ethnic and religious diversity, all points of view and the lively politics of our great City of Boston. For on Saint Patrick’s Day we are all Irish.

Saint Patrick Day parades have been held in Boston since 1737 (unofficial parades). In 1901 Evacuation Day was declared a holiday in the City of Boston. Because of the coincidence of the proximity of the two holidays, and in order to save a little money Mayor Curley combined the celebrations and handed organization of the parade off to the Allied War Veterans Council. For the past forty years, one man, Wacko Hurley of the Allied War Veterans Council has been organizing the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, turning what should be the celebration of Saint Patrick, the Irish heritage and history into a military parade.

In 2011, the local chapter of Veterans For Peace, the Smedley Butler Brigade submitted an application to march in the traditional Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Veterans For Peace is a national veterans organization with 130 chapters across the country. The Smedley Butler Brigade has over 200 members locally. Its members range from veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and the Afghanistan War. All Veterans For Peace wanted to do was to march in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and carry their flags and banners. Their application was denied by the Allied War Veterans Council. When the organizer of the parade, Phil Wuschke, was asked why their application was denied, he stated, “Because they did not want to have the word Peace associated with the word Veteran.” They were also told that they were too political, as if the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and other activities surrounding the parade are not political.

Veterans For Peace subsequently filed for their own permit for the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade. Seventeen years ago, the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB) had also applied to march in the parade and like the veterans were denied. GLIB sued the Allied War Veterans Council and the case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, resulting in the Hurley Decision, named after Wacko Hurley, the ruler supreme of the parade. This decision states that whoever is organizing the parade has the right to say who is in and who can be excluded from the parade, no questions asked. Even though the City of Boston will spend in excess of $300,000.00 in support of this parade, they have no say in who can be in the parade. The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade should be sponsored by the City of Boston and not a private group, who have secretive, private meetings, not open to the public and who practice discrimination and exclusion.

In the case of Veterans For Peace, if you are carrying a gun or drive a tank you can be in the parade, if you are a veteran of the US Military and carrying a peace symbol, you are excluded. Once Veterans For Peace had their parade permit in hand the first group they reached out to was the gay and bisexual community in Boston. “You were not allowed to walk in their parade seventeen years ago, how would you like to walk in our parade” The response was immediate and Join the Impact, one of many GLBT organizations in the Boston area enthusiastically joined the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade, the alternative peoples parade. Because of another Massachusetts Court decision, the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade had to walk one mile behind the traditional parade. With only three weeks to organize the parade when it stepped off this little parade had over 500 participants, grand marshals, a Duck Boat, a band, veterans, peace groups, church groups, GBLT groups, labor groups and more. It was a wonderful parade and was very warmly welcomed by the residents of South Boston.

This year, once again, Veterans For Peace submitted an application to the Allied War Veterans Council for the inclusion of the small “Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade” into the larger parade. Once again the Veterans were denied:

“Your application has been reviewed, we refer you to the Supreme Court ruling on June 19, 1995 your application to participate in the March 18, 2012 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade had been denied”

No reason given as to why, just denied. This should be unacceptable to every citizen of Boston, especially the politicians who will be flocking to the Breakfast and Roast on March 18th. This kind of exclusion should not be condoned nor supported by anyone in the City of Boston, especially our elected political leaders.

Just in case the Allied War Veterans Council has not noticed, South Boston is no longer a strictly Irish Catholic community. In fact the Irish are no longer a majority in South Boston. The community is much more diverse in 2012 in ethnicity, life styles, religion, points of view and politics then it was forty years ago. Times have changed, the City has changed, the population has changed, social norms have changed. People are much more accepting of those that may be different, have a different religion, customs or ideas. We are a much more inclusive society, everyone that is except the antiquated Allied War Veterans Council.

It is time for the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade to be inclusive of these differing groups. It is time for the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade to be reflective of the changes in our culture. It is time for this parade to include groups of differing life styles, points of views and politics or the City of Boston should take back this parade. There is no place in Boston or anywhere in this country for bigotry, hatred, censorship, discrimination and exclusion. This should be a day of celebration, for all the peoples of the great City of Boston to come together, to celebrate Saint Patrick and our Irish history and heritage. In 2012 this parade should be inclusive and also celebrate what makes us Americans, what makes this country great, our multi-ethnic diversity, differing life-styles, religious affiliations, differing politics and points of views. All of us should wear the green, no one should be excluded, since on Saint Patrick’s Day we are all Irish.

CONTACT:

Veterans For Peace: Pat Scanlon, 978-475-1776, info@massvfp.org

Mass Peace Action: Cole Harrison, 617-354-2169, info@MassPeaceAction.org

Web: smedleyvfp.org, Twitter: @SmedleyVFP, Facebook: facebook.com/smedleyvfp
 

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