Dragging Death Mocked in NYC Parade
Sep. 11, 1998
NEW YORK (AP) _ A New York City neighborhood whose Labor Day parades over the years included floats poking fun at Jews, gays and Asians has come under fire this time for a display lampooning the dragging death of a black man in Texas.
The float featured men in blackface and has sparked outrage, from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to residents of the Broad Channel neighborhood in the borough of Queens.
``When I saw it on the news, I cried,'' Dan Turbridy, a longtime Broad Channel resident, said Thursday. ``Nothing like this has ever happened.''
Many of the 2,200 or so residents of the predominantly white community say they did not see the float. Some fear those responsible could turn their neighborhood into the city's latest symbol of racial intolerance.
``I've been living here for nine years and I've never seen anything as drastically disgraceful as that,'' said Michael Shea, president of the Broad Channel Athletic Club.
Amateur videotape of Monday's parade aired by WCBS-TV shows about a dozen white men in blackface wearing Afro-style and dreadlock wigs, and riding on or marching alongside a green pickup truck. The float featured a banner reading, ``Black to the Future 2098.''
One of the men clings to the rear bumper and is dragged slowly along the parade route, as if to mock the slaying earlier this year of 49-year-old James Byrd. Three white men have been charged in his death in Jasper, Texas.
Other members of the group are shown breakdancing, bouncing basketballs and drinking alcohol. One man on the float is heard saying: ``You turn your back for a second and 'Watch out,' they're moving in!''
Four men told WNYW-TV that they were responsible for the float but that they intended for it to be humorous and meant no harm.
``This float had no malicious intent at all,'' Teddy Rauert said. ``We are extremely sorry, extremely, if we offended anybody.''
The parade, which started Monday at about 1 p.m., was cut short by a heavy thunderstorm. The float, believed to be the last in the parade, didn't finish the mile-and-a-half route.
``I didn't actually see the float when I was there, only later on television,'' said City Councilman Alfonso Stabile, who represents the area. ``I think its appalling.''
Giuliani asked the city fire department to sever ties with the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department, which sponsored the parade. He also said the city's Human Rights Commission would investigate.
``I am disgusted by this ugly display of racism,'' he said.
The Queens District Attorney's office is also investigating. A representative of the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department declined comment.
The bizarre satire of Byrd's death was not the parade's first foray into controversial territory. In recent years, it has featured a float called ``Hasidic Park'' _ a takeoff on the movie ``Jurassic Park'' _ showing men dressed as Hasidic Jews. Another year, a float called ``Happy Gays'' featured men dressed as women flirting with each other. Another year, a float was called ''Gooks of Hazzard.''