Boston — Tens of thousands of onlookers saluted the 3rd annual St. Patrick’s Peace Parade in working-class South Boston on March 17. The people’s reception and the Peace Parade itself were a rebuke to the pro-war Allied Veterans Council, which for 20 years has excluded the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangenders and queer communities from the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In recent years, the council has also barred the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace from the parade.
Pat Scanlon, leader of the brigade, issued an organizing call for the Peace March that unified thousands of progressives and the left. By reaching out to the LGBTQ community in a major way, the brigade attracted dozens of groups to the march from as far away as Brooklyn, N.Y., and Bath, Maine.
Boston’s Stonewall Warriors carried a banner stating, “Free Private B. Manning and all political prisoners!” as well as numerous placards demanding justice for CeCe McDonald and Trayvon Martin.
In an unprecedented act of solidarity with Vets for Peace, Boston’s official Pride Committee marched with a huge rainbow flag through “Southie” streets. That was followed by a float from the Rainbow Times newspaper, which had donated free ad space to the Vets to publicize the parade in the LGBTQ community.
The large LGBTQ contingent and all the marchers were warmly received throughout the two-hour march by the throngs lining the streets. The multinational masses who now live in South Boston have changed the character of that neighborhood since the 1970s, when racist crowds threw rocks at school buses filled with Black children.
The School Bus Drivers Union, Steel Workers Local 8751, led the labor contingent. It was joined by members of Pride at Work, AFL-CIO; the Lavender Caucus of the Service Employees union; UNITE/HERE Local 26; and Team Solidarity of the USWA. Charles Clemmons, manager of Roxbury’s Touch 106.1 FM radio station and an activist African-American candidate for mayor, marched with the bus drivers.
Brooklyn’s Rude Mechanical Orchestra played “We Shall Overcome” during the march, ending with a 15-minute version of the old labor anthem, “Which Side Are You On?”
The dozens of groups supporting the event included the Women’s Fightback Network, Peace Action, United for Justice and Peace, the Budget for All Massachusetts Coalition, Community Church of Boston, the Coro Allegro chorus, the American Friends Service Committee, Bread and Puppet Theater, and many, many others. Bishop Filipe Teixeira was asked to bless the parade, which was also supported by many from the religious community