The decision to use a shorter route for Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year was made out of concern for public safety, following the Waukesha, Wis., Christmas parade attack in November, the parade’s operations director said Wednesday.
The parade, organized every year by the South Boston Allied War Veteran Council, will follow a shortened route on Sunday that begins at the Broadway T Station, proceeds down the entirety of Broadway, and ends at Farragut Road.
When the council announced in February that the parade was back on this year after being canceled the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers said the shorter route was set because of public health concerns amid a surge of the virus’s Omicron variant.
But during a Zoom meeting of parade organizers, public safety officials, and elected officials Wednesday, Bryan Bishop, director of parade operations for the council, said that was not the only reason.
“The biggest part of this for us, and not everyone is going to agree with this, we know, but I really want to make this clear that this was all in the interest of public safety,” Bishop said. “In November, after the attack in Wisconsin, I was personally called by the news media and we were talking about how do we keep our people safe at large events like this? This is the first time in two years that this parade has taken place, and at the same time it’s the first time in two years that Boston is going to see a crowd descend on South Boston like it’s going to see, because ... people have been pent up for two years.”
The attack in Wisconsin happened on Nov. 21, 2021, when a man identified as Darrell Brooks Jr. drove an SUV into a Christmas parade striking dozens of people. Six died, including an 8-year-old boy.
The 2020 parade was one of the first major events in the city that former mayor Martin Walsh canceled at the beginning of the pandemic. It was canceled again last year.
State Senator Nick Collins, whose district includes all of South Boston, pushed back on Bishop’s reasoning and said the parade route can be protected with Jersey barriers.
“This thing’s been done for 100 years and, unfortunately, terrorism has been around a lot longer, and we’ve been able to keep the place safe,” Collins said in the meeting. “I have every trust that the committee and the Police Department can do that with the official route because it’s been done before.”
Bishop responded, saying it is too late to extend the route for this year.
“I understand what you’re saying ... but we are five days out. And I’m sorry, but the short route has been announced, it’s been vetted, it’s going. That’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
Bishop said the parade will return to its official route in 2023.
The route for Sunday’s parade is one that’s been used in the past under the circumstance of bad weather conditions, such as the heavy snowfall that blanketed the city in the days leading up to the parade in 2018.
MBTA Transit Police on Thursday urged people to celebrate responsibly during the parade. The transit agency said it will not tolerate unruly behavior or drinking by passengers headed to the parade. Extra officers will be deployed to ensure a safe journey to and from the parade, police said in a statement.