The South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which last year made headlines after a neo-Nazi group’s stunt along the route, returns this Sunday, March 19, and city officials are keen to ensure it’s a “family-friendly” event.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a hate group - anyone who comes into the city that wants to do harm or interrupt our daily lives, they are on our radar and we will address it appropriately," Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said on Monday, March 13 when asked about preparations for this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade in light of last year's white supremacist display.
“I certainly don’t want to give attention to people who don’t need attention but the reality is we are prepared for almost anything and that’s what we prepare for in general.
“I don’t know if those folks will return, but either way, we’ll be prepared and we’ll treat everyone constitutionally regardless of who they may be.”
Last year, members of the Nationalist Social Club / NSC 131, which is described as a neo-Nazi group by both the Counter Extremism Project and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), hung a banner that read "Keep Boston Irish" along the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade's route.
The neo-Nazi group also filmed themselves that day handing out fliers at the parade. One flier read "if you love your heritage and your city, join us!" while another read, "above all, we stand for the security and prosperity of white New Englanders."
The video, which was posted online, also shows some NSC 131 members shaking hands and posing for pictures with other parade-goers, as well as police officers in the parade riding bikes past the group and their "Keep Boston Irish" banner.
Speaking after Cox on Monday, Mayor of Boston Michelle Wu said of the parade: “This is a beloved tradition in the city and one that is very much tied to the history of our immigrant communities and the history of particular Revolutionary War sites and the development of this country.
“We’re very grateful to the Boston Police for taking on the additional staffing and resources and intense planning that’s required to return to a longer, traditional route that does go by many more of these historical sites in the parade."
Wu added that they've been working closely with community members and elected officials "just to make sure that everybody’s continuing to coordinate and be ready.”
In addition to preparing for the possibility of another white supremacist display, Boston Police are hoping to curb drinking-related incidents by banning public alcohol consumption for the day. Bar and liquor establishments will also be closing early at 4 pm.
“We’re asking people if they do come into the city, to be cognizant of the fact that this is a family-friendly event," Cox said on Monday. "We’re not going to be allowing public drinking."
He added: “I’d prefer on St. Patrick’s Day in general, and particularly out in public, not to drink at all. That’s what my preference is.”
Cox appealed to parents to be aware of young people's activities and locations that day, while also noting that officers will be along the route and working with the State Police and federal partners.
The aim, Cox said, is "to make sure this is a safe event, in general."
"We will be monitoring all activities regarding public safety," he added.
Monday's comments came after about a week after five Boston politicians wrote to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) “to collaborate on a security plan for our public transit system to ensure a safe and inclusive event for all" ahead of this year's parade.