By Ray O’Hanlon
Irish gay groups are urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg to intervene in their long-running standoff with organizers of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
And if the groups are excluded from the parade again this year, they are urging the mayor not to march in the event himself.
Bloomberg is expected to take part in the parade, the 241st, up Fifth Avenue on March 16.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, a number of Irish-American groups who protested against arrest policies during the Giuliani administration have won a court case against the city that followed a number of arrests two years ago.
The groups, including Irish Queers and the Brehon Law Society, were awarded $469,000 in damages and legal costs.
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Both the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization and Irish Queers, meanwhile, are urging Mayor Bloomberg to intervene in the parade row over the exclusion of ILGO or stay away from the march.
ILGO spokeswoman Aine Duggan said that ILGO would be reaching out to the mayor in the next few days as well as contacting parade organizers to request inclusion in the line of march.
In anticipation of a refusal, however, ILGO is planning to protest along the sidelines of the parade as part of a coalition of gay and religious groups.
At the same time, Duggan said that ILGO is sensitive to the fact that the parade this year is a salute to the fallen heroes of Sept. 11, some of whom were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual.
“We received tremendous support from the firefighters during our sidelines protest last year. Many came over to joke with us or cheer us on. Now it’s our turn to cheer them on,” she said.
Duggan’s feeling toward the parade committee are less sanguine.
“Sept. 11 brought this city together and it’s unfortunate that this group [the committee] is the first to divide the city again,” she said.
Irish Queers, meanwhile, a separate entity to ILGO, has already written to Mayor Bloomberg accusing him of aligning himself with homophobia.
“Your decision to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade — an overtly
exclusionary, bigoted parade — not only blatantly contradicts a campaign promise, but aligns you squarely with the unrepentant homophobia of the parade organizers,” the IQ letter stated.
“The St. Patrick’s Day parade has clearly and deliberately defined itself as a venue for marchers who do not support civil rights; who are willing to invoke the right of religion to place themselves out of reach of civil rights law; who exclude lesbian, gay and transgender people, as in the past they excluded women, Irish community members resisting British occupation, people of color and people in wheelchairs,” the letter charged.
“The presence of police and firefighters in the parade does not change this fact. Similarly, your own presence does not promote inclusion ‘from the inside,’ but simply lends the strength of the mayor’s office to the exclusion,” the letter continued.
“There are many ways to honor the victims and the rescue workers of Sept. 11, and there are many reasons, particularly now, to stand strong for civil rights. We hope you will choose a venue that honors all people affected by 9/11 — queers, people of color, immigrants and others whose civil rights are under attack right now — and which does not serve to pit the NYPD and FDNY against the people of New York City.”
Irish Queers meanwhile, along with other groups, including the Brehon Law Society and the Irish Parades Emergency Committee, are this week awaiting a payout from the city after a dozen of their members were arrested two years ago.
The arrests were made during a protest against the shooting of immigrant Amadou Diallo by police in the Bronx.
The groups charged that the arrests and 24-hour detentions — as opposed to summonses — were in violation of their First Amendment rights, given that the charges could not result in jail time after court hearings.
The groups further charged the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of indulging in anti-speech practices.
“Of the $469,000 won, $169,000 will go to legal fees and the rest will be divided among the 12 plaintiffs,” said Emmaia Gelman of Irish Queers.
“The city blatantly targeted demonstrators who criticized Giuliani or the NYPD. On that day we stood as Irish Americans protesting racism in the NYPD, drawing parallels between policing in New York city and brutal, racist policing in the north of Ireland, which targets Irish Catholics,” Mary Elizabeth Bartholomew of the Brehon Law Society said.