Organizers of the annual South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade filed a lawsuit Monday, saying that the city’s decision to shorten the parade route violates their First Amendment rights.
“The city is trying to take the parade away from us,’’ said Jim Tuross, one of the parade’s organizers. “But this is our parade. Not theirs.’’
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Boston, comes after the city decided to limit Sunday’s parade route to the course used last year when massive piles of snow blocked many streets along the traditional route. The shortened route begins on West Broadway at Dorchester Avenue, follows West Broadway to East Broadway, and ends at Farragut Road.
Tuross said the new route won’t allow participants to march past key landmarks, including the Revolutionary War Monument at Dorchester Heights, the home of longtime parade organizer John “Wacko’’ Hurley, or the Michael J. Perkins American Legion Post 67, where Gold Star families gather for the event.
Mayor Marty Walsh met Friday with representatives from the Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade, and said he is surprised by the decision.
“After consulting with Commissioner Evans, I have decided that it is in the best interest of public safety, while balancing the historic tradition of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, to use the same route that we did last year for this year’s parade,’’ Walsh said in a statement over the weekend.
The Boston Police Department also supports the adjusted route, and said it will have less of an impact on the South Boston neighborhood. Streets will reopen sooner, and officials expect fewer cars towed along the route, the department said.
“With the shortened route, the BPD is able to provide ample police resources to a smaller footprint and lower the amount of officers required to police the event,’’ the department said in a statement. “We used about 150 less officers last year than in previous years. With officers deployed closer together and along a smaller route, we are able to make the event that much safer.’’
This isn’t the only parade route the city has adjusted. The courses for the Caribbean Festival Jovert parade, the Allston Brighton parade, the First Night procession, and the Greek parade have all been recently modified in the interest of public safety.
But parade organizers worry that shortening the parade route will only increase the risk to the public.
“You’re taking people off a route that was more than three miles and putting them on one that’s less than a mile and a half,’’ Tuross said. “Public safety is our main concern, too, and this is just not going to work.’’