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Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, with “gay” groups marching and Catholic groups absent, loses luster of past years.

(See photos.) More politicians but fewer spectators and fewer participants.

POSTED: March 30, 2015

How did the huge media coverage of the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade decision to include homosexual groups affect the parade itself? We went to see for ourselves. The verdict? No question about it: Fewer participants, fewer spectators, a duller experience than past years. But more liberal politicians showed up.

For some reason the "OUTVets" contingent was flanked by police as they marched.
[All photos by MassResistance.]

Background: How the parade “went gay”

Until now, Boston had been the only St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the country not to cave to pressure and allow homosexual groups to march. In 1995, after a huge legal battle with the Massachusetts liberal political establishment, the Allied War Veterans Council (which runs the Boston annual parade) won a 9-0 US Supreme Court decision giving them the right to exclude homosexual-themed groups from their parade. 

And they’d held their ground. Last year, as MassResistance reported, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh put enormous pressure on the Council to change their policy, but they refused to give in. As expected, the Mayor and his political allies boycotted that year’s parade.

But this year the Mayor, a former union organizer, increased the pressure on the Council leadership and was successful. In December the Council voted to allow the homosexual group “OutVets” to march. But even then, the Council Commander only had a minority of the members supporting this. As we reported, they had to use dishonest and deceitful tactics to exclude the majority of members when the vote was held.

Catholic groups and others react

Almost immediately afterwards, Catholic groups reacted. For 25 years, the giant float of St. Patrick from the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Still River, MA, along with the school’s band, had been the hallmark of the annual parade. The school's principal, Br. Thomas Dalton, made it clear that the school would pull out of the parade this year. According to a parade organizer we spoke to, several other Catholic groups also pulled out.

On Feb. 26, three weeks before the parade, the Massachusetts Knights of Columbus, a prominent Catholic men’s organization, announced they would march in the parade, even though they hadn’t done so for at least 20 years. But after a flood of pressure and outrage by faithful Catholics (and MassResistance) the Knights relented and stayed away.

A few days before the parade there was another surprise announcement. The Commander decided to allow “Boston Pride” – a prominent homosexual group which runs the annual “Boston Gay Pride Week” – to march. This news was widely celebrated in the media and by the liberal politicians.

The vaunted Boston Pride homosexual contingent, which got such huge media publicity for being allowed to march, ended up being just a gaggle of odd people. They were clearly there just to make a point, not to add anything positive to the parade.

A few yards in front of the Boston Pride group was this pair of boys prancing around and embracing each other. An in-your-face message, it seemed.

So the parade went on. The route was shortened considerably because of the huge snowfall in Boston, though the streets were cleared quite well by then. And although the weather forecast had originally called for rain and snow, the day was just cloudy.

What we saw at this year's parade

The differences from past years were quite noticeable:

Except in a few places, the crowds were sparse. Usually, the St. Patrick’s Parade is known for its enormous crowds. In the past, published reports have described nearly 20,000 marchers in the parade and nearly a million spectators on the streets of South Boston.

But even though the parade route was considerably shorter, in many places there were no crowds at all. There were almost no families. People weren’t even looking out the windows of houses along the route.

This was at about the midpoint of the parade route, during the parade. There's hardly anyone on the sidewalk and no one even looking out the windows.

The spectators mostly seemed to be college students and kids in their 20s, many a bit inebriated.

It seemed more like a party atmosphere for college students than a family destination.

Police everywhere. We don’t recall seeing so many police along the route. In some places there were more police than spectators.

Along the parade route.

Fewer marching groups and floats. This parade is traditionally the largest parade of any kind in New England. But not this year. There were fewer groups. There were only three floats, and two of those were very small.

The three floats that were still in the parade weren't exactly spectacular.

More military and police groups marching, only one Catholic group. March 17 is both St. Patrick’s Day and also “Evacuation Day” in Boston, celebrating the retreat of British troops from Boston during the Revolutionary War on March 17, 1776. Thus, there is also a military flavor to the parade and the Allied War Veterans group runs it. But this time it seemed that there were several more military and police groups marching than last year.

One of several police contingents.

We noticed only one overt Catholic marching group – the Bishop Guertin High School from New Hampshire. Br. Dalton had challenged the school officials to drop out as a statement of their Catholic beliefs. But they told him, “Our students will spend their lives encountering viewpoints that are antithetical to their beliefs” and they intend to march.

And of course, lots of politicians were there who had boycotted the parade last year, including the Mayor, the Governor, Lt. Governor, a slew of State Reps and others, and even the Boston Police Commissioner.

Politicians who boycotted the parade last year -- but marched this year:

The Mayor of Boston

Boston Police Commissioner

Governor Charlie Baker

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito
US Sen. Ed Markey
State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry - represents South Boston (far right)

Finally, a few of the radio stations that overtly boycotted the parade last year (after pressure from some Boston Herald staffers) were back this year.

WEEI Radio backed out last year after previously agreeing to be in the parade.

What will happen next year?
The Mayor has announced that, “the controversy is all behind us now.” But this isn’t New York. We don’t expect this fight to die down at all, knowing the players involved. There is still a majority of the Allied War Veterans Council opposed to what happened, plus there is more lingering outrage over the dishonest way this was orchestrated and the insult to faithful Catholics. The legacy of the Supreme Court case will motivate many to keep fighting. 

This was likely one of the more popular additions to this year's parade.


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