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Impromptu Motorcade Replaces Canceled St. Patrick’s Parade

March 20, 1994

BOSTON (AP) _ There was a St. Patrick’s Day celebration Sunday in South Boston after all - minus an Irish gay and lesbian group.

A hastily organized motorcade of more than 200 vehicles briefly cruised the traditional route of the St. Patrick’s parade, which organizers canceled this year after a court ordered them to allow the gay group to march.

The unofficial observance lasted less than an hour. There were no protests or confrontations and drivers in the motorcade obeyed all traffic laws, said police spokesman Jerry Vanderwood.

Police said the motorcade was not illegal and did not require a parade permit because organizers did not request a police escort or the rerouting of traffic.

Members of the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston said the motorcade was an illegal attempt to evade the state Supreme Judicial Court ruling.

GLIB, which marched under court order in the 1992 and 1993 parades, said it would not protest and planned a separate celebration at a Unitarian- Universalist church.

Sunday’s motorcade was organized by several groups, including the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which runs the traditional parade. The groups used fliers, signs and word of mouth.

″Decorate your cars green. Bring the family. Tell your friends. We are still free to celebrate,″ said a handwritten sign at the South Boston Information Center.

With headlights on, horns honking and passengers waving, the motorcade drove up and down East Broadway, the commercial heart of South Boston.

One car displayed a sign saying, ″The Supreme Court makes queer decisions.″ It was referring to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s refusal to overturn a lower court’s order allowing GLIB to march.

″It’s just a good feeling. The power was there,″ said Susan Shields, a resident who watched from the sidewalk. ″The gays ruined it for the children. ... I don’t want condoms thrown at my kids.″

Meanwhile, GLIB and the veteran council found one topic on which they could agree: opposition to a white supremacist group’s plan to hold a ″belated″ St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The Mississippi-based Nationalist Movement plans a May 7 parade and rally titled, ″Neighborhood, Home, Family and Country: Go, Southie, Go.″

″There may have been a lot of hate and bigotry in this debate,″ said GLIB spokesman Dave O’Connor, ″but I think all groups would be united against these people.″

The Nationalist Movement held a small but highly-publicized march in Simi Valley, Calif., after four white police officers were acquitted in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. The group also has held rallies against Martin Luther King Jr. Day and homosexuality.

The Nationalist Movement has successfully sued cities and counties that tried to ban past marches. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the group’s free speech rights in 1992 when Forsyth County, Ga., tried to charge it a $100 security fee. The county ended up paying more than $500,000 in court costs.

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