Parade organizers raise safety concerns following Pelton’s statement
Straight Pride Parade organizer Samson Racioppi said at a press conference Thursday night that President M. Lee Pelton put parade organizers at risk by denouncing the parade to the Emerson community.
The organizers, who are all members of the group Super Happy Fun America, held the conference at the Bunker Hill Monument to address safety concerns following the announcement that the Boston Police Department would not prevent protesters from blocking the parade path.
Racioppi said he felt endangered by Pelton’s statement.
“I have to walk by the Emerson campus every single day,” he said. “His irresponsible statement may place me at an undue risk.”
Pelton said in a phone interview with the Beacon that he had not endangered Racioppi at all.
“[Racioppi] must be extraordinarily delusional to believe that anyone on this campus knows, or would know, who he is,” Pelton said. “I’ve never met him. I suspect that even if he walked on campus with his name emblazoned on his shirt that students would not know who he was. So he is absolutely safe here.”
SHFA President John Hugo said that Pelton had not reached out to SHFA, and that Hugo had not attempted to contact Pelton because he was too busy planning the parade.
“I’d rather debate him, if he’ll agree to that, and then we can have our point of view,” Hugo said. “But telling your students what to think—it’s a very scary precedent.”
Pelton said he would not agree to debate Hugo.
“I will not engage in a debate with him or anyone else on this issue, because I believe that the intellectual grounding on which this parade is based is empty and does not even rise to the level of informed discourse,” he said.
SHFA received the parade permit in June from the city of Boston. The parade will take place on Saturday at noon, starting at Copley Square and ending at City Hall. Hugo said they are expecting about 1,000 people to attend the parade in support. Over 800 people have RSVPd as “Going” or “Interested” to several Facebook events to protest the parade.
Racioppi emphasized that the organizers have both respect for the police and faith that they will keep the crowds of parade participants and protesters separate. He said the group’s concern is with the police not stopping protesters from blocking the route.
“They just may not actually clear the streets, which is what we take offense to,” Racioppi said. “Because if any other group were to try to obstruct the route of another parade, Boston police you bet would clear the streets of protesters. We believe this [decision] goes all the way up to Mayor Marty Walsh’s office.”
The Boston Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hugo said that the group did not want to incite violence.
“We want no confrontations,” Hugo said. “It’s a family-friendly parade, and if anyone’s doing violence it’s going to be on the other side, not our side.”
Karen Childress, who is visiting from Texas to march in the parade, said she is not concerned about her safety and does not expect violence.
“Not from our side, we’re here peacefully,” she said. “I’ll be marching in the parade, and we are totally here peacefully. I mean, God created us to procreate: a man and a woman.”
Racioppi also added that he felt Pelton’s statement was bigoted towards the organizers.
“So I looked up the definition of bigotry earlier, and bigotry is the intolerance of another person’s opinions,” he said. “And by definition, the statement that President Pelton issued is bigotry. I’m not calling him a bigot, but I’m saying the statement was bigoted.”
In an interview with the Beacon after the press conference, Racioppi said that, should Pelton apologize, he would be open to a meeting.
“If he retracts his statement and issues an apology, I would love to go and meet him,” Racioppi said.
Pelton said that he does not plan to issue any apologies or retractions.
“I do not need to apologize for exercising my right to speak freely,” he said. “And I will not apologize for a constitutional right that is afforded to me and all other citizens.”
Hugo said that people in over 100 different cities contacted the organizers wanting to create their own straight pride parades. Hugo added that his group was not associated with the National Straight Pride Coalition, whose recent Straight Pride took place in Modesto, California. Hugo said he was upset that the Modesto organizers staged their event a week before Boston’s.
The California event’s organizer recently called his group a “peaceful racist group.”
When asked what the organizers would do if any racist groups attended their parade, Hugo responded that they would not be endorsed.