A Staten Island veterans’ group is threatening to sue the city after it was denied a permit for its annual Memorial Day parade – despite New York City officials allowing Black Lives Matter rallies and even a cannabis parade earlier this month.
The United Staten Island Veterans’ Organization filed a parade permit on February 27 the same way it has for the past 102 years.
But the New York Police Department denied the request in March, citing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s emergency order restricting public events during the coronavirus pandemic.
But, advocates for the veterans’ organization argue, other groups have been able to hold events during this time.
The city hosted the New York City Cannabis Parade on May 1, when nearly 200 weed smokers walked 17 blocks down Broadway carrying a giant inflatable joint.
Politicians including Attorney General Letitia James and Senator Chuck Schumer addressed the crowd and praised the state for decriminalizing marijuana.
Black Lives Matter protests have also been held frequently in the city since last summer.
ALLOWED: The city hosted the New York City Cannabis Parade on May 1, when nearly 200 weed smokers walked 17 blocks down Broadway carrying a giant inflatable joint
ALLOWED: Senator Chuck Schumer speaks in Union Square Park during the NYC Cannabis Parade
ALLOWED: Black Lives Matter protestors gathered at New York Public Library on May 1 to protest for safer working conditions for minorities
BLOCKED: People participate in the annual Memorial Day Parade on May 25, 2020 in Staten Island
‘Under the equal protection clause, it’s unconstitutional for the city to pick and choose between groups like this,’ attorney Brendan Lantry said in a ‘good faith’ letter to the NYPD on Friday, according to the New York Post.
Lantry is an attorney with Menicucci Villa Cilmi, who is working pro bono for the Staten Island veterans.
A spokesman for City Hall told the Staten Island Advance, however, that permit decisions are based on state guidelines for gathering during the pandemic, and police officials have told the New York Post that they have not granted any permits since the pandemic began.
BLOCKED: Dozens of cars and nearly 100 members of the patriotic motorcycle group Rolling Thunder joined the Staten Island Memorial Day parade last year
ALLOWED: Attorney General Letitia James (pictured) spoke about her support for marijuana legalization
The department will, however, provide security services to any group that holds marches and rallies.
‘We have accommodated hundreds of marches, protests and other gatherings even without permits,’ NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller said. ‘Any group where the event is planned, the NYPD was made aware and it was conducted peacefully has been accommodated.’
The Cannabis Parade organizers were able to get their permit from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, according to rally spokesman Stu Zakim, who added, ‘We had a police escort the whole way, they shut traffic down, all that stuff.’
But Lantry, who previously chaired the local Republican Party, said the Parks Department should not be granting these types of permits.
ALLOWED: Demonstrators showed their support for marijuana legalization in a march on May 1
ALLOWED: Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters gathered at the Barclays Center and took to the streets in April in protest of the police-involved killing of Adam Toledo in Chicago
ALLOWED: A vigil is held at the Times Square for Adam Toledo, Duante Write, George Floyd other victims of police shootings in April
‘There’s a reason this stuff goes through [the] NYPD – for security for those in the parade and those on the sidelines,’ he said in the Staten Island Advance article.
‘Parks should have no role in this parade, as it never has for a century.’
The Staten Island Memorial Day Parade would be the group’s 102nd annual parade. This year, they were going to particularly honor Gulf War veterans to mark the 30th anniversary of the Middle Eastern conflict
It was supposed to b a scaled-down version of their normal parade with a Patriotic Convoy,’ and an estimated 1,000 participants lined up between Forest Avenue in Staten Island from Hart Boulevard to Greenleaf Avenue.
‘For many of us, a parade is a form of closure,’ said Jamie Gonzalez, 57, a Marine infantryman who saw combat during Operation Desert Storm. ‘We gather together and support each other.’
John Haynes, CEO of the United Staten Island Veterans’ Organization, added in the Staten Island Advance article that they just wanted to be able to recognize ‘those veterans, current and past, who have served this great nation.’
‘All we ask for is fairness under the law,’ he said.