New York veterans rave after parade lockout after pot smokers get permission to walk
Mayor de Blasio refuses to allow group of military veterans to march on Staten Island on Remembrance Day – after welcoming pot smokers in public to make their way to Broadway during the cannabis of the week parade last.
“It’s a slap in the face,” Jamie Gonzalez, 57, a Navy infantryman who witnessed combat in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, told The Post.
Gulf War veterans like Gonzalez were due to receive special honors at Staten Island’s 102nd annual Memorial Day Parade this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1991 conflict – until the city stopped the take.
“For many of us, a parade is a form of enclosure,” Gonzalez said. “We come together and we support each other.”
“I’m pissed off,” said Ted Cohen, 82, a retired Air Force reservist who was on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “It is pathetic.”
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The United Staten Island Veterans Organization, the association of 16 local veteran groups that sponsored the annual march for decades, applied for a parade permit with the NYPD on February 27, following the same procedure they use. every year in accordance with official city rules.
On March 9, the department rejected the request, citing de Blasio’s emergency decree limiting public events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The town hall did not respond to a message requesting comment.
The brushing came about despite a myriad of marches over the past year that were recognized by the city, officially escorted by cops, and often featured elected officials in the marching line. They included a lightened St. Patrick’s Day parade in March, in which de Blasio participated; countless Black Lives Matters protest marches; and the Cannabis Rally and Parade on May 1, when revelers hoisted a huge inflatable seal along a 17-block route and heard speeches from Senator Chuck Schumer, among others.
A city official said vets have found themselves caught in the bureaucratic no man’s land of de Blasio’s random coronavirus rules.
“People are just walking. This is the new normal,” the official said. “The people of Staten Island had the decorum and respect to follow the right path [and] they suffer for their civic spirit.
“No one else is even asking for permission.”
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Island veterans, whose plight was first reported in the Staten Island Advance, are furious at the unequal treatment.
“Look, put on a parade you want, I have no problem with that,” said Volker Heyde, 78, commanding officer of the Marine Corps League from Staten Island. “But for the city, to put the dopeheads on the veterans is to dishonor us.”
Attorney Brendan Lantry sent a “good faith” letter to the NYPD on Friday requesting a parade permit by Monday, citing the Cannabis Parade as a precedent.
“Under the equal protection clause, it is unconstitutional for the city to choose between groups like this,” Lantry said. “There is a clear double standard here.”
The group will take legal action next week if necessary, he said. A legal license is also important for insurance reasons, as many older vets participate and might need injury coverage.
The veterans permit application estimated that 1,000 participants would walk down Forest Avenue from Hart Boulevard to Greenleaf Avenue, an 18-block stretch of leafy West Brighton shopping street.
About 200 potheads partied at the New York City Cannabis Parade, which culminated in a Union Square rally where politicians hailed the state’s new weed law.
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But the organizers of the pot-rally seem to have found a back door to get their event approved.
“We got a permit from the parks department,” rally spokesman Stu Zakim said. “We had a police escort the whole way, they stopped the traffic, all that.”
Lantry called the stealth permit process “crazy.”
“There’s a reason it goes through the NYPD – for the safety of those on the parade and those on the sidelines,” he said. “The parks should not play a role in this parade, as they have never done in a century.”
This story first appeared in the New York Post.