Category: Archive

Parade controversy blooms early

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

On that occasion, Bloomberg boycotted the Italian-American parade and went to an Italian restaurant in the Bronx after organizers refused to let him march with his guests, two actors from the “Sopranos,” because they said the hit TV show presents a negative image of Italian Americans.
On Monday, Bloomberg spoke to reporters about his St. Patrick’s Day intentions, and said: “I don’t think that any of the censorship or discrimination makes any sense . . . but if the parade organizers found whoever I choose to invite next March . . . unacceptable, I would go have dinner in an Irish pub instead of an Italian restaurant.”
In response to the Columbus Day incident, Irish gay groups, including Irish Queers, ILGO and the Lavender and Green Alliance, held a protest at City Hall on Monday with openly gay elected officials, asking if the mayor would apply the same criteria to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, from which gays and lesbians are banned for marching openly.
The protestors said that if Bloomberg marched in the parade, he was subscribing to what they called the organizers’ bigoted and discriminatory attitude toward homosexuals, and that it would amount to an “anti-Irish slur” for him to march.
“After his actions over the Columbus Day parade,” said Irish Queers activist Emmaia Gelman, “we thought, this is a great model, and at our protest we asked why the mayor would choose to take part in a parade, where, if he were to invite gay and lesbian friends, he would be told that he cannot march.”
Irish Queers called on Bloomberg to invite them as his friends to “march with you, and if they refuse to allow us, then respect your friends and don’t march.”
“Given that the Irish community is at least 10 percent queer, does he only respect 90 percent of the community?” Gelman asked.
As the protest at City Hall came to an end, Bloomberg came out of City Hall and was asked by Gelman and her fellow activists whether he would invite them to march up Fifth Avenue next St. Patrick’s Day, but he remained silent and left in his SUV.
Gelman speculated that Bloomberg might be attempting to mollify his image within the Irish community, after he has angered many bar and restaurant owners with his proposed smoking ban.
“I can only say that he appears to be doing this ass-backward and it is entirely inappropriate. You don’t trade people’s civil rights,” she said.
Parade organizers said that they mayor was entitled to make his own choices over the issue, but that the ban on gays and lesbians marching under their own banner in the parade remains.
“If the mayor wants to go to an Irish pub, that’s his right,” said parade director James Barker. “There is nothing to answer now, because we don’t know who he’s inviting.”
According to tradition, Barker added, the mayor marches with the NYPD. “That’s his spot,” he said.
Parade chairman John Dunleavy told reporters: “That’s entirely up to the mayor, what he intends to do, and we’ll see what happens when we come to it.”
He added that the mayor should ask parade organizers beforehand if he could invite anyone, to get their approval.
“He absolutely should come forth with that,” Dunleavy said. “He should consult with us first, as he should with any parade organizers. We can’t be forced to include somebody.”
“The bottom line is, the parade is exclusionary,” said City Councilwoman Christine Quinn. “For it to be meaningful, we need to march with the mayor and identify ourselves.”
The mayor has already indicated that he will march in the inclusive St. Patrick’s parade in Queens, which is held in early March each year, and in which gay groups are allowed to march openly.
As for the mayor, a spokesperson said Tuesday, “he has not made any decisions about St Patrick’s Day yet.”

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