(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2011)
For the second straight year, South Boston will host two St. Patrick's Day parades -- the traditional event and an alternative parade that bills itself as the St. Patrick's Peace Parade.
Organizers say the Peace Parade, which will include marchers from a gay rights group, will be bigger and better this year.
“We figured that there should also be a message of peace in the parade,” said Pat Scanlon, a coordinator for the Smedley D. Butler Brigade, Greater Boston Chapter of the Veterans for Peace. “The fact is that the [original] parade is a military parade hiding behind St. Patrick’s Day. It should be a community-based parade. … They are beating the drums of war.”
Organizers with the Allied War Veterans Council, the group that puts on the tradtional parade, said their event has nothing to do with promoting war.
“The long-term philosophy of the parade is honoring our veterans and we are proud of that,” said Ed Flynn, chairman of the parade committee. “People may disagree on issues, but this is a happy event. It’s a new day for South Boston.”
The Peace Parade's brief history with the Allied War Veterans Council has been rocky.
In 2003, the group applied to march in the traditional parade but was denied after the council cited a 1995 US Supreme Court decision that allowed it to block gay-rights groups. The decision essentially allows the private council to exclude groups that convey a message contrary to that of the organizers.
However, the antiwar group won city approval for its own parade along the same route. Marchers must remain a mile behind the traditional parade.
“We respect all veterans that have served. Anyone who has put on a uniform has earned our respect,” Flynn said. “We don’t want negative issues. This is a positive day for South Boston and our veterans. It’s not about controversy.”
Scanlon, coordinator for the Veterans for Peace goup, said groups including Join the Impact, Code Pink, SEIU, local churches, and peace groups have also signed on to march. He said the permit that the group submitted to the Boston Police Department estimated up to 2,000 participants.
“I really have no idea how big this is going to be, but I think it’s going to be huge,” Scanlon said. "We’re going to have more floats, more bands, and more people marching.''
District 2 City Councilor Bill Linehan, who lives in South Boston and who has marched in the first parade in the past, said: “Basically, we want to make sure it remains a family day. I don’t make the decisions [of who marches], that’s up to the Allied War Veterans Council.”
State Senator Jack Hart, who also has marched in the first parade, said he is sympathetic to the second parade but he’s also not in charge of the decisionmaking.
“The Supreme Court said no and it’s the law,” Hart said. “I support Veterans for Peace and their message and that’s also their constitutional right.”
Mayor Thomas M. Menino has taken a strong stance on the first parade and its decision to bar gay-rights groups. According to his office, the mayor has never marched in the parade and will not this year because of the exclusion by the group.
Parade day is Sunday, March 18. The first parade, put on by the Allied War Veterans Council, will begin at 1:00 p.m. For a map of the parade route, click here.
The second parade will follow the same route and officially starts at 2:00 p.m.