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St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers may sue over route

Last year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston. Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston may be marching to the courtroom.

The Allied War Veterans Council of South Boston, which organizes the parade, said Saturday it plans to file a lawsuit to restore the traditional procession route, which city officials shortened this year, citing public safety concerns.

Chester Darling, a lawyer for the group, said the organization plans to argue that the abbreviated route violates its First Amendment rights, and he expects to file a complaint Monday in US District Court in Boston.

The move comes after council members and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh discussed the parade Friday at City Hall.


“The mayor has taken over as parade organizer and has virtually destroyed half of the parade . . . basically tearing the heart and soul out of the celebration,” Darling said Saturday in a phone interview.

The shorter route, which the city unveiled last month, begins on West Broadway at Dorchester Avenue, follows West Broadway to East Broadway, and ends at Farragut Road. The same route was used last year when record snowfall clogged South Boston streets.

The veterans organization said the shortened procession, which is scheduled for next Sunday, excludes some key spots, including the Revolutionary War memorial at Dorchester Heights, the home of longtime parade organizer, John “Wacko” Hurley, who died last year, and the Michael J. Perkins American Legion Post 67, where Gold Star families gather for the event.

Group leaders met Saturday afternoon with members at the Perkins post to discuss plans for the lawsuit.

“We filed a permit in April of last year, literally. Here were are, hours away from parade time, and we’re still argle-bargling over traditional procedure,” said Bill Desmond, the group’s commander.

A Walsh spokeswoman said Saturday that the mayor was surprised by the council’s decision. During the meeting Friday, she said, Walsh discussed alternate parade routes with the group.


“After consulting with [Boston Police] Commissioner [William] Evans, I have decided that it is in the best interest of public safety, while balancing the historic tradition of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, to use the same route that we did last year for this year’s parade,” Walsh said in a statement Saturday.

Boston police said the shorter route has less of an impact on South Boston by allowing streets to reopen sooner and reducing the number of cars that are towed on parade day.

The abbreviated path is also easier for officers to patrol and less costly, police said. The department deployed 150 fewer officers for the shorter route last year, the department said.

During last year’s parade, there was a 50 percent drop in the number of calls made for emergency medical services and a 40 percent drop in requests for police, according to the city.

“It was a much safer event all around last year because the BPD was able to focus our resources along a more concentrated route,” police said in a statement. “While we expect to spend about $100,000 less, budget is never a true consideration when public safety is at issue.”

Desmond said ending the parade at Farragut Road, instead of the traditional Andrew Square, would be a “total mess.” The event is expected to draw many more spectators this year because of the milder winter, Desmond said.

“In 20 years of operating this parade, the Allied War Veterans Council can claim some expertise in the business of bringing people in and sending them home,” he said. “Going from Broadway Station, the traditional route, and then finishing at Andrew station addresses that. Going from Broadway to Farragut Road is going to create a total boondoggle.”


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.