New York City veterans will be forbidden from commemorating Memorial Day later this month with a Staten Island parade after the city’s leaders allowed a cannabis parade down Broadway last week.
Fifty-seven-year-old Gulf War veteran Jamie Gonzalez called it a “slap in the face”
Gonzalez and other veterans of the conflict were to be given special honors to mark the 30th year anniversary of the war during this year’s 102nd annual Memorial Day Parade.
“For many of us, a parade is a form of closure,” Gonzalez told the New York Post. “We gather together and support each other.”
Ted Cohen, a former active Air Force reservist during the Cuban Missile Crisis, said he was “incensed” by the city’s decision.
“It’s pathetic,” he said.
The United Staten Island Veterans Organization filed a request for a parade permit with the NYPD on Feb. 27, but the department rejected the request due to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s restrictions on public gatherings due to Covid-19 concerns.
The city rejected the veterans’ request for a parade even after allowing dozens of other public events, marches, and protests in the past year such as a limited St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March which de Blasio attended; dozens of Black Lives Matters marches; and the May 1 cannabis rally.
“No one else is even asking permission,” one city official told the Post.
“People are just marching. That’s the new normal,” the official said. “The Staten Island people had the decorum and respect to go the proper way [and] they are suffering for their civic-mindedness.
Staten Island vets were outraged by the city’s decision to allow a cannabis parade but not a Memorial Day march.
“Look, have any parade you want, I have no problem with that,” said 78-year-old Volker Heyde, commandant of Staten Island’s Marine Corps League. “But for the city to put dopeheads over vets is just dishonoring us.”
Attorney Brendan Lantry sent a “good faith” letter to the NYPD last week demanding a permit by Monday, according to the New York Post.
“We will fight vigorously to ensure that our veterans are honored for their service,” Lantry said. “A double standard should not apply to the detriment of those men and women who, as Lincoln said, ‘gave the last full devotion to our country.’”
“Under the equal protection clause, it’s unconstitutional for the city to pick and choose between groups like this,” Lantry said. “There’s a clear double standard going on here.”
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