Saturday, October 31, 2009

Homestead Parade On Again

Confederate flag may fly in VFW Homestead parade
Written by ELGIN JONES

HOMESTEAD – Undaunted by the cancellation of the traditional Homestead Veterans Day Parade, a group of veterans on Wednesday announced that it is organizing its own parade, and would not necessarily ban the Confederate battle flag from being displayed in it.

Officials with the local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) say they have submitted a permit application to the city of Homestead, seeking to hold this year’s Veterans Day parade in the city.

The revelation came a day after the South Florida Times reported that the Military Affairs Committee (MAC) of the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce, which has previously organized the 47-year event, voted recently to cancel this year’s Nov. 11 parade. The move followed an announcement by the MAC last month that it would hold the parade, but ban the display of the Confederate battle flag.

The flag is a symbol of southern pride to some, but represents slavery, lynching and racial mistreatment to others.

“We made the decision to go forward, and we just put the application in. I don’t know if we are going to get any resistance to it, but the application has been filed with the city, and we are waiting for the permit,” said William Thibault, a retired veteran who is working with the Arrant-Smith VFW Post 4127 in Homestead to organize the alternative version of the parade.

Homestead city spokeswoman Lillian Delgado said in an email that the VFW has not yet submitted an application to hold the parade.

The VFW is sending out invitation applications from an established list of past parade participants, with a Nov. 6 deadline for them to be returned.

Thibault said the group would not automatically bar the Sons of Confederate Veterans from participating.

“First of all, I have no comment on that because I don’t know who will or will not respond to the applications we are sending out,” Thibault said. “This will not be a decision made by me alone. The committee allows for participation by any organization that honors veterans, and if they tell us on their applications what their theme is, and whether they will have floats, etc., then a decision will be made whether they meet our requirements or not.”

But already, Gregory E. Kalof, a commander in the Miami-Dade County-based Private George Perry camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said his organization will participate in the VFW parade, no differently than other veterans organizations.

The parade is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 11 at noon in downtown Homestead, according to the forms that the VFW is sending to would-be applicants.

“This parade, honoring the memory of the men and women who have fought to defend our nation and liberty is the oldest and, usually, the largest Veteran’s Day celebration in Miami-Dade County,’’ the form reads. “As such, we expect all entries will be designed to convey the patriotic theme of the holiday.”

Thibault said the VFW has been assured that it will get financial and other support, but did not elaborate on the source of that support. The city of Homestead has provided financial support to previous Veterans Day parades.

The MAC canceled its version of this year’s parade after several participants pulled out due to controversy surrounding the participation of Confederate States groups in last year’s parade, and the display of the Confederate battle flag during the event.

The Miami-Dade NAACP and some residents opposed the participation of Confederate organizations, and threatened an economic boycott of the chamber’s member businesses if those groups were not barred from participating in future parades.

After the MAC canceled its version of this year’s parade, Bishop Victor T. Curry, president of the Miami-Dade NAACP, said in a statement emailed to the media on Tuesday: “The Sons of the Confederate Veterans organization and the Confederate flag have no place in a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored and taxpayer-supported event.’’

Curry also said, “The NAACP and the coalition of organizations and concerned Americans does not desire the cancellation of the parade but rather a parade that will truly honor U.S. veterans and not insult significant numbers of our citizens.’’

He continued: “Confederate symbols are symbols of support for white supremacy, resistance to desegregation and fighting to maintain slavery. They are as offensive as the Nazi swastika.’’

Neither Curry nor other NAACP officials could be immediately reached for comment about the VFW’s plans for its own Veterans Day parade.