BAPA bans peace group from holiday parade
By Steve Metsch firstname.lastname@example.org May 23, 2014 8:16PM
Updated: June 26, 2014 6:41AM
Southsiders For Peace, a group that typically carries anti-war signs and passes out leaflets promoting peace, will not be marching Monday in the Memorial Day parade in Chicago’s Beverly community.
A leader of the group, the Rev. Rodney Reinhart, of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Harvey and St. Joseph and St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Blue Island, said the group was told by the parade’s organizer, the Beverly Area Planning Association, that it can’t participate in the parade.
“We were planning to walk in the parade, like we’ve done before, but we’re not being allowed to be in the parade this year,” Reinhart said Friday.
BAPA executive director Matt Walsh confirmed that Southsiders for Peace will not be in the parade. When asked why, he said “we’re hoping to have a great parade, and that’s what we’re really focused on. ... We’re hoping to have a great parade that honors those men and women that served in our armed forces.”
Asked to be more specific and whether BAPA had received complaints about the organization, Walsh said, “Memorial Day is about those who have sacrificed for our country, and that’s who we hope to honor that day.”
Reinhart said Southsiders for Peace honors veterans and never would speak negatively about their service to the country. He said he was “very surprised” by Walsh’s comments suggesting that the group would detract from the parade’s message, especially because it has been well received in past parades.
“We let people know that we honor our veterans and our servicemen and women, but we think that there are way too many of these wars that just aren’t right,” he said. “We should honor our servicemen and women by standing up for them and saying they need to be brought home rather than continue to be in these violent and dangerous places.”
Southsiders for Peace plans to gather at 10 a.m. Monday at 110th Street and Longwood Drive, the parade’s starting point, and will hand out leaflets along the parade route, Reinhart said. The parade is set to begin about 10:30 a.m.
“We encourage all those who would have marched with us in the parade, and all those who think we should be allowed to march to help us distribute this flier,” he said in an email. “We will not disrespect or disrupt the parade, but people should know that our group, which has always had a positive reception, has been excluded because of our anti-war sentiments.”
Asked if BAPA was OK with that, Walsh said, “People distribute leaflets all the time.”
Another member of the peace group, Tom Shepherd, of Chicago’s Pullman community, said it was “very disconcerting” that BAPA denied the group entry into the parade. He said BAPA tried to do so about six years ago but relented after meeting with its members.
“We have Korean, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans in our group, and we have never done anything irreverent,” Shepherd said. “We feel as bad as anyone else for those who died. However, we feel it’s important to have a peace element in any of these parades.”