Organizers of the city’s 115th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade filed an emergency injunction Monday aimed at restoring the parade’s route to its original length, after a decision by Mayor Marty Walsh more than halved the original route.
"After consulting with [Boston Police] Commissioner [William] Evans, I have decided that it is in the best interest of public safety, while balancing the historic tradition of the St. Patrick's Day Parade, to use the same route that we did last year for this year's parade,” Walsh said in a statement.
That truncated path was implemented last year after a historically awful winter ground the city to a halt. The original route, which passed by veterans memorials and winded along South Boston streets for about 3 miles, is now shortened to about 1.4 miles, prompting outrage from parade revelers.
Messages to parade organizers were not immediately returned, but a post on the group’s Facebook page said organizers were “swarmed by people” who objected to the new route, and encouraged those concerned to reach out to the Mayor’s office.
“This shortens the parade by over 2 miles and forces spectators to stuff onto the sidewalks on Broadway to view our event, while taking away the right of many South Boston residents to view it from the comfort of their own homes and neighborhoods,” organizers wrote.
“Lastly, it takes away the very important landmarks that our parade participants march past in order recognize the significance of Evacuation Day.”
The post went on to say that organizers are “shocked and dissatisfied” with the change and that they got “no straight answer from City officials as to why the route was changed, or why they are not letting Veterans march past the Dorchester Heights National Historical Site during their 115th annual parade, which is organized and paid for every year by the South Boston Veterans and their supporters."
Attorney Chester Darling, who filed the suit, was not available for comment late Monday. The shorter route meant less impacts on residents of the South Boston neighborhood, a statement explaining the decision from the Boston Police Department reads.
“We used about 150 less officers last year than in previous years,” the statement explains. “With officers deployed closer together and along a smaller route, we are able to make the event that much safer.”
City officials also pointed to a 50 percent reduction in EMS medical calls along the parade route last year, as well as a 40 percent reduction in police calls in the area of the event. The shorter route also cuts expenses to the city by about $100,000.
Other parades were also subject to recent route adjustments: the Caribbean Festival Jovert parade, the Allston Brighton parade route, the First Night procession route and the Greek parade route. Similar changes are under consideration for the Dorchester Day parade and Charlestown’s Bunker Hill parade.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade, organized by the South Boston Allied War Veteran Council, is no stranger to controversy: former Boston Mayor Tom Menino famously boycotted the parade for two decades due to its exclusion of gay and lesbian groups.
Mayor Walsh reversed that trend and marched in the parade last year, after the council agreed to invite OUTVETS, a veterans organization supporting former members of the military in the LGBT community.
There is a hearing on the injunction at the US District Court at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Whatever the route, the historic parade is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on March 20 in South Boston.