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"...few of the flashes of controversy that had marked past years' parades..." Related Gully Coverage

Labor's Queer Irish Troubles
How labor stabbed queers in the back and got away with it.

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No queers here. St. Patrick's Cathedral, left, and the 240th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, New York, March 17, 2001. Matt Moyer

New York

A Queerly Mellow St. Paddy's Day

by Kelly Cogswell

MARCH 20, 2001. Jettisoning their usual fiery civil disobedience actions, this year ILGO (the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization) protested their exclusion from the St. Patrick's Day Parade from the sidelines at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street. The parade's theme was "honoring labor." The grand marshal was Edward Malloy, a prominent New York labor leader.

Protesters, including members of Pride At Work, a gay union group, waved placards, chanted, and generally made their presence felt for several hours to many among the 165,000 marchers. Unfortunately, they were invisible to most of the 2 million parade watchers along Fifth Avenue, and to the 2.5 million viewers that watched it on TV.

On most local evening newscasts, however, the protesters and ILGO spokesperson, Kris Franklin, were crisply and coherently featured. While the high drama of the arrests was gone, they managed to make their point and at least show that they had not evaporated.

Coverage of the ILGO sidewalk protest in the print and electronic media was indifferent. The New York Times focused on the arrest on 62nd Street of three women who had tried to chain themselves to each other to block the parade. The Times juxtaposed the arrests to the placard-waving ILGO members on the sidewalk, many of whom, it said, returned a kiss blown by a marcher in a kilt. The New York Post declared the day "peaceful." The New York Daily News said there were "few of the flashes of controversy that had marked past years' parades" and reported that ILGO "demonstrated quietly."

An AP headliner filed by Don Singleton just before the parade started, which set the tone for most subsequent print and electronic coverage in the U.S. and abroad, was titled "Group Nixes Parade Clash." It began with, "A St. Patrick's Day Parade without controversy? Begorra, and believe it or not, 'tis true—for the first time in more than a decade, today's St. Patrick's Day Parade is not scheduled to begin with a group of gay protesters being carted downtown to jail."

ILGO did not explain why it decided to forgo civil disobedience this year. Participants in past years pointed to a certain action fatigue, after eleven years of protests. Others mentioned a drop in recent years in the amount of people willing to spend the better part of a day (or two) in jail. The retirement of key ILGO leaders and a desire to try new tactics may have also played a part. The parade's labor theme and the presence of labor leader Ed Malloy as grand marshal, and ILGO's close collaboration with the gay labor group Pride At Work, may or may not have been a factor in the decision to hold a "quiet demonstration" on the sidewalk this year. Or it may have just been a happy coincidence—for labor.

Related links:

For Gay Irish links.

For the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization.

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

For Complete Coverage New York City

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