By Stephen McKinley
Last Sunday’s so-called alternative St. Patrick’s Day parade took place along Skillman Avenue in Queens, under threatening rain clouds and a handful of protestors.
Several lesbian and gay groups helped organize the parade, which was started in 2000 in response to the continued exclusion of Irish gay groups from the traditional parade up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Along Skillman Avenue, the marchers were accompanied by Latin dancers and a Korean drumming ensemble, as well as De Jimbe, an Irish-African music group.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended the march, despite lobbying from a local Republican group led by Pat Hurley, the veteran campaigner for Irish immigration issues in New York. Senator Hillary Clinton also attended, with Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley.
“As Republicans, as Irish Americans and as Christians, we are upset at the mayor, and we see it as a stab in the back, and we will make sure that people take account of that when poll time comes around again,” Hurley told the Echo.
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On Saturday, Hurley and parade organizer Brendan Fay debated the issue of the parade on the Adrian Flannelly radio show.
“My views are so entrenched and his views are so entrenched, so there was little to be said, really,” Hurley added.
Fay and other parade organizers expressed satisfaction with the event that attracted somewhat more than 1,000, up from last year.
Protestors shouted “sodomites” at the passing parade, and the Tablet, the Brooklyn and Queens Catholic diocese newspaper, had urged its readers to boycott the parade in an editorial the day before.
One house on Skillman Avenue displayed posters attacking the parade in its windows, including a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a sign that read, “A blasphemous lesbian and homosexual parade.”
There were also unconfirmed reports on the day that a local radio station had been contacted by someone posing from the parade committee, stating that the parade had been cancelled. Organizers said that it was a malicious attempt to derail the parade.
“This was our third year of holding the parade,” said Fay, “and it was bigger. It grows every year. It has more support from within the Irish community and local community.”
Hurley said that he saw only a handful of attendees at the parade as it entered Woodside, and added that he saw none of the politicians at the close of the parade.
“It was over in about 15 minutes. The groups there had absolutely nothing to do with Irish heritage,” he said, adding that “none of the politicians marched into Woodside. Perhaps they didn’t have the balls.”
He decried Crowley’s attendance as a “major stab in the back” for Republicans and conservatives.
Hurley was not the only person displeased with Mayor Bloomberg’s presence at the parade. The organization Irish Queers protested his presence, saying that he was a hypocrite, having made no commitment to boycott the Fifth Avenue parade next Saturday, March 16.
“If Bloomberg marches on Fifth Avenue, he’s a bigot, plain and simple,” said Pat Lavery, a member of Irish Queers, who held up signs that read “separate is not equal” at the Queens parade.
“In civil rights struggles in both Ireland and America, politicians have tried to straddle the fence when standing up for justice was not convenient,” Lavery said.
Afterward, some marchers retired to Rocky Sullivan’s bar, where the parade’s main music attraction, De Jimbe, played. The parade had honored the memory of the New York Fire Department chaplain, Mychal Judge, who was killed on Sept. 11th.