For the past two-years a second parade has followed behind the Allied War Veterans Council’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston.
Dubbed the St. Patrick’s Peace Parade, the second parade was created after the Veterans for Peace, a national veteran group, was denied the chance to march in the first parade.
The Allied War Veterans Council in the past has rejected the Veterans for Peace’s application, saying the group was “controversial” and pointing to a 1995 US Supreme Court decision it won against a LGBT rights group seeking to march. The decision essentially allows the private council to exclude groups that convey a message contrary to that of the organizers.
In 2003 the Veterans for Peace, which works to “build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices,” according to its mission statement, organized a small parade and marched behind the first parade.
The Allied War Veterans Council cried foul, saying the second parade violated the Supreme Court decision.
A US magistrate judge later ruled that the second parade could happen as long as it remains one-mile behind the first parade. The first “official” St. Patrick’s Day Peace Parade was held last year.
A request for comment to Edward Flynn, Chief Marshall of the Allied War Veterans Council’s parade and the son of former Boston mayor Ray Flynn, was not returned. Organizers instead sent an email describing the parade as, “honoring and paying tribute to the young men and women from South Boston that have served recently in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
LGBT groups and the Veterans for Peace, as in the past, will not be able to march this year in the first parade; the vets didn’t even bother applying to march this year.
Organizers of the second parade did, however, score a small victory this year. The city will now run street sweepers after the second parade.
In the past the street sweepers were run in between the two parades, causing most spectators to think the South Boston day of pageantry was over.
Now with the street sweepers taking up the rear, organizers are excited to get even more people in the crowd participating as they march through South Boston playing music, entertaining on-lookers, and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
“The parade just keeps growing,” said Patrick Scanlon, the coordinator for the Greater Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace. “We’ve really created an exciting parade and it’s actually welcoming to everyone.”
Although the second parade has now established itself, with many turning out to watch it and participate, Scanlon said the sting from the Allied War Veterans Council’s rejection will also follow the peace parade.
“Here I am Irish through and through and I can’t march in the parade because I believe in peace? That’s ridiculous,” said Scanlon. “I understand they have their legal rights, but that doesn’t make it right; this is a community parade.”
The Allied War Veterans Council recently told the Boston Globe that it doesn’t exclude the LGBT community, with many members participating.
“Gay and lesbian people have been walking in the ¬parade since the beginning of the parade itself,” Philip J. Wuschke Jr., the lead organizer of the parade, told the Globe. “They just don’t come out holding a sign.”
Lines have also been drawn around the parade by politicians. Mayor Thomas M. Menino has boycotted the parade in years past because of its exclusion.
“The Mayor is a man who stands for what he believes in,” said Dot Joyce, a spokesperson for Mayor Menino. “While he respects the Irish community, he will not march in a parade that is not inclusive of all the city’s residents.”
Those running for the now vacant State Senator seat in First Suffolk, which includes South Boston, have also come out against the Allied War Veterans Council exclusion.
Both candidates for the seat, Maureen Dahill, a South Boston native, and Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester resident, have expressed opposition to the parade’s exclusion of certain groups.
Representative Nick Collins, a South Boston native who is also running for the seat, told Boston.com that he will still march in the parade, something that is almost a requirement of South Boston politicians.
"I will be marching this year as I have in the past,” Collins told Boston.com in early-March. "It's a private matter. It's been addressed"
Congressman Stephen Lynch, a South Boston native who is currently running for the Commonwealth’s vacant Senate seat, will not march in the parade this year, but will have representatives marching for him, his campaign told the local newspaper the Dorchester Reporter.
“Congressman Lynch’s positions don’t change based on the office he’s running for,” Scott Ferson, a campaign spokesman for Lynch, told the Dorchester Reporter in early-March. “He has consistently maintained that this is a first amendment issue, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that private parade organizers have the right to decide which groups can march. Congressman Lynch’s support of the first amendment doesn’t change simply because he is running for Senate or because some candidates for office want to play politics.”
Although there may be politics surrounding the parades, most who show up in South Boston Sunday to march or watch will only have a few things on their mind: green, fun, and being Irish for the day.
The first parade will kick-off at 1 p.m. Sunday, with the second parade, the St. Patrick’s Peace Parade, just a mile behind it.