New York Veterans Fume Over Parade Lockout After Pot-Smokers Get Permit To March

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is refusing to grant permission for military veterans to march Staten Island on Memorial Day after welcoming marijuana smokers to hold their Cannabis Parade last week.

57-year-old Jamie Gonzalez, a Marine infantryman who fought in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, told the New York Post:

“It’s a slap in the face.” 

Vets like Gonzalez supposed to be given special honors in Staten Island’s 102nd annual Memorial Day Parade 2021 to mark the 1991 conflict’s 30th anniversary – until the mayor decided to shut them off.

Gonzalez went on to say:

“For many of us, a parade is a form of closure. We gather together and support each other.”

Retired Air Force veteran Ted Cohen, 82, who served during the Cuban Missile Crisiss, said:

“It’s pathetic.”

The United Staten Island Veterans Organization, which has sponsored the event for decades, filed a request for a parade permit with the NYPD back in February, in accordance with New York’s official rules.

In March, the department denied the request, citing the mayor’s emergency executive order restricting public events due to the coronavirus situation. 

De Blasio denied the veteran’s request despite the fact that he granted permission to a number of marches last year. Those included a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March, when de Blasio participated; numerous Black Lives Matter protest marches; and the pot parade which took place on May 1. During the cannabis event, people raised a giant inflatable joint along and listened to speeches given by Senator Chuck Schumer among politicians.

One NY official said that the veterans have become caught in the bureaucratic chaos of de Blasio’s ludicrous coronavirus rules.

“People are just marching. That’s the new normal,” he said. “The Staten Island people had the decorum and respect to go the proper way [and] they are suffering for their civic-mindedness.

“No one else is even asking permission.”

Needless to say, the Island veterans, whose case was first made known by the Staten Island Advance, are furious.

78-year-old Volker Heyde, the commandant of Staten Island’s Marine Corps League said:

“Look, have any parade you want, I have no problem with that. But for the city to put dopeheads over vets is just dishonoring us.”

Lawyer Brendan Lantry sent a letter to the NYPD to demand a parade permit, citing the marijuana event as precedent.

He said:

“Under the equal protection clause, it’s unconstitutional for the city to pick and choose between groups like this. There’s a clear double standard going on here.”

The vets will file a lawsuit next week if it is needed, Lantry said.

A legal permit is also crucial for insurance purposes, as many older veterans are taking part and may need coverage against injury.

Their permit application estimated that 1000 of their people would march down Forest Avenue from Hart Boulevard to Greenleaf Avenue.

Around 200 weed-smokers threw a street party at the New York City Cannabis Parade, which ended in a Union Square rally where political figures praised the state’s new legal marijuana law.

Interestingly, the cannabis march organizers appear to have found a loophole to get their event through.

Rally spokesman Stu Zakim said:

“We got a permit from the Parks Department. We had a police escort the whole way, they shut traffic down, all that stuff.”

Lantry called the whole situation “insane.”

“There’s a reason this goes through NYPD — for security for those in the parade and those on the sidelines,” he said. “Parks should have no role in this parade, as it never has for a century.”

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