I Love A Parade!

by Jason Walsh

In a 180 degree “about face,” Mill Valley’s I Love A Parade committee now “desires” that the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition join its upcoming Memorial Day Parade.

As has been the case at various times in recent years, the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition had been denied its request to march in the 2011 procession this year—its application was turned down earlier this month due to grievances over last year’s parade which saw Coalition members carrying anti-Israeli government and anti-occupation of Palestine banners in the theoretically a-political parade. When the Peace and Justice Coalition objected to its pageant preclusion and appealed to the city, Mill Valley officials said their hands were tied—citing a 1995 Supreme Court decision concerning a gay and lesbian group that had been barred from a Boston parade. “Hurley vs. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston” found that the parade organizers’ free speech rights include the right to determine who marches and who does not.

But the Peace and Justice Coalition wasn’t about to sit out without a fight. According to MPJC spokesman Alan Barnettt, the city’s parade permit was improperly drawn and, therefore, invalid. The Coalition points to a section of the permit that reads, “It is the desire of the City of Mill Valley that this event will be open to all in the community who wish to participate.” Barnett has argued that the word “desire” should be interpreted as “requirement.”

“In the context of a permit, the expression of the City’s ‘desire’ makes it a requirement of the permit,” says Barnett. “The permit states the City government’s decision and will. A permit does not express government’s hope but the obligation of the recipient of the permit.”

But just as Barnett and the Peace Coalition were revving their war of words, I Love A Parade director Larry Lautzker offered an olive branch and invited the Coalition to join next week’s procession.

“We appreciate the I Love A Parade committee’s willingness to set aside our previous disagreement and giving us this chance to return to the parade in which we have participated for more than a decade,” the Peace and Justice Coalition announced Thursday in a statement.

The Peace Coalition also argues that the city could eliminate this kind of contention simply by sponsoring the Mill Valley Memorial Day event itself, instead of allowing private parties to do so.

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