2 NC towns cancel Christmas parades after threat of anti-Confederate protests

  • Amanda McCarl plays clarinet as the Wakefield marching band performs during the 2011 Christmas parade in Wake Forest, N.C. This year’s Christmas parade, scheduled for Dec. 14, has been canceled. TNS PHOTO

The News & Observer
Published: 12/5/2019 10:33:10 PM
Modified: 12/5/2019 10:32:59 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake Forest is canceling its Dec. 14 Christmas parade because of concerns of public safety after the planned participation of a local Confederate group, according to a news release.

The Wake Forest Downtown Inc. board of directors, the nonprofit organizing the parade, voted Wednesday to cancel the parade due to “potential for violence,” the release said. This would have been the 72nd year of the parade.

The decision comes a week after the town of Garner canceled its Christmas parade, citing similar concerns. Garner had plans to include a float sponsored by a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans but said social media chatter led them to believe “the event could be targeted for disruption,” The News & Observer reported.

In Wake Forest, the town said it supported the organizer’s decision after police reported receiving information from “growing numbers of outside groups” who planned to attend to support or oppose the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, according to a press release from Wake Forest.

Wake Forest Police Chief Jeff Leonard said only one group had told the town of its intent to protest, but he said there could be others, according to the news release. Town spokesman Bill Crabtree added that the number of protesters possibly coming together created the potential of violence.

“Groups that contact us about their plans to protest tend to follow our rules and regulations,” Leonard said in the press release. “We’re concerned about outside agitators that don’t notify us. Radicals don’t typically call ahead. These aren’t area residents we’re talking about. These are professional protesters who have no regard for the safety and well-being of others.”

The decision is a reversal from the town’s announcement Nov. 27, which said the parade would go on. In a Facebook post, the town said it is unable to “exclude groups some may find objectionable.”

The statement said: “For over two decades, the Sons & Daughters of the Confederacy has participated peacefully and without incident in the parade. The group’s entry traditionally features participants in period costumes and a banner that includes an image of the Confederate flag.

“Make no mistake about it — the Town of Wake Forest is extremely sensitive to the emotion the Confederate flag stirs among those on both sides of this issue. We recognize that for some the flag represents racism, hatred and bigotry, while others see it as a representation of Southern heritage protected as a matter of freedom of speech/freedom of expression.”

The town said in the statement that it consulted with lawyers in 2018 about options to exclude some groups from the parade. But the town was told it has no legal basis to exclude a group “based on the flag or symbol they display.”

Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones recorded an emotional video message to address the parade’s cancellation, adding in a statement that she is “angry, disappointed and heartbroken.”

“The decision to cancel the parade is not a reflection on our community or our wonderful people,” Jones said in the video, her voice catching. “Rather it is an unfortunate consequence for what happens when outside agitators make it known that they will use local events like our parade to sow hate and spark chaos.

“Clearly, it is not the most popular decision, but it is the safest decision,” Jones said.

In last week’s statement, the town said residents should see the parade as an opportunity to unite the community and not let the parade become “political and divisive.”




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