BOSTON — After months of build-up and debate, drawing the attention of late-night talk shows and the scorn of many in this liberal city, the Straight Pride Parade kicked off Saturday with a Trump float and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” playing.
The event drew a crowd that was heavily guarded with fencing and police. Organizers expected around 1,000 people for the rally, which is led by three conservative straight men who make up a group called Super Happy Fun America.
The parade, with conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos serving as grand marshal, started at noon at Copley Square and ends at City Hall. There were few counter protestors in the crowd.
The Boston Police Department said they have a “comprehensive operational plan” in place and had a large police presence. Police urged people not to bring backpacks, large bags or strollers, and have prohibited a long list of items including firearms and knives.
Parade organizers have embraced the motto, “It’s great to be straight.” They’ve called on supporters to join the “fight against heterophobia in our modern society” and to “add an S to LGBTQ for Straight!” They say the parade is a response to the “identity politics” of the left.
“The world’s gone crazy because there’s nothing wrong with being straight,” Super Happy Fun America President John Hugo said in a news conference this week. The group says hundreds of people have registered and they’re coming from “all over the world and all over the United States.”
“A lot of it depends on how you report this because if you scare people, it might have a depressing effect on the parade,” Hugo said of the size of the crowd.
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In Boston, long considered an LGBTQ-friendly city, the parade has been widely condemned, with one of the sharpest rebukes coming from Emerson College. The private school in downtown Boston borders much of the parade’s route
Emerson College President Lee Pelton, in a letter to students and faculty, slammed the parade as a “perversion” and “desecration of beauty, truth and generosity” led by “angry and misguided people.”
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At Saturday’s parade, there were some counterprotestors who
Hugo, the group’s president, is a former Republican candidate for Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District, who lost badly in 2018 to U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass. The organization’s vice president is Mark Sahady, a member of the right-wing group Resist Marxism, who has organized several right-wing demonstrations in the past.
The group organized the parade this spring, filing a discrimination complaint with the city after they said their proposal was initially ignored.
The city of Boston approved an application for the parade in June with Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat, arguing the city can’t stop the parade from taking place just because people might disagree with the organizers’ cause.
Walsh, who does not plan to attend the parade, said permits to host a public event are granted based on “operational feasibility, not based on values or endorsements of beliefs.” The Boston Police Department and licensing board each approved the necessary permits.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.