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Organizers of St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston balk at route change

The 2017 St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, organizer of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, is balking at Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s decision to shorten the route, because of Tuesday’s heavy snowfall.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Dave Falvey, commander of the council, said it is “extremely disappointing that Mayor Walsh made a unilateral decision to proceed with a shortened route.”

Earlier Wednesday, Walsh announced that Sunday’s parade would follow the same “snow route” used in recent years after heavy snowfall clogged city streets.

“Our number one priority will always be to keep our residents safe at all times,” Walsh said in a statement. “The snow route has allowed for a safe and enjoyable celebration in other years when there has been heavy snow before the parade.”


The parade will start at the Broadway MBTA station and end at Farragut Road, Walsh said late Wednesday afternoon.

The same route was followed last year, and in 2015, when city streets were also clogged with mounds of snow.

But Falvey said Walsh made his decision without the concurence of the council, which is urging the mayor to reconsider.

“I don’t think our position on this is unreasonable,” said Falvey during a brief phone interview Wednesday.

The 117th edition of the parade, which steps off at 1 p.m., had been scheduled to follow a longer route, from the Broadway MBTA Station to Old Colony Avenue, according to the parade website.

The traditional route, said Falvey in his statement, “is part of what makes the event special, and allows for the parade to pass by senior and public housing, and for Perkins American Legion Post members to host Gold Star Mothers.”

Parade organizers and City Hall have clashed over the parade route before. In 2016, a federal judge ordered the Walsh administration to allow the parade to march along its typical route, saying the city’s attempts to shorten the parade, even for safety reasons, interfered with the First Amendment rights of the organizers.


“Today’s decision is consistent with the failed 2016 attempt to permanently shorten the parade route that was defeated in court,” said Falvey in his statement.

Asked if organizers would take legal action against the city over the parade route this year, Falvey said, “I’m not really sure . . . we’re just exploring all options at this point.”

The council, according to Falvey’s statement, “understands that public safety is the top concern, but there was still the opportunity for the parade to proceed with the traditional route with that in mind.”

Nicole Caravella, a spokeswoman for Walsh, said in a statement that the mayor has “been in communication with parade organizers for two days to discuss the safety precautions and need to utilize the snow route.”

“This decision had to be made as soon as possible in order to allow adequate time for Public Works to fully clear Broadway of snow and for public safety officials to finalize their staffing and safety plans for the parade,” she said in the statement.

Tuesday’s blizzard, which dumped 14.5 inches of snow in Boston, has sent city crews scurrying to clean up from the storm, particularly along the parade route, Walsh said.

“I commend the Public Works Department for working diligently to ensure that Broadway will be safe and accessible by Sunday,” he said.


In a statement, Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans said the shorter route is necessary to ensure public safety.

Tuesday’s heavy snowfall “created a situation where we do not feel that it is safe enough for children and families to watch the parade, especially on side streets, which are already difficult to navigate after a storm,” Evans said.

Councilor Michael Flaherty, who serves at large but hails from South Boston, praised the decision to follow the shorter route.

“It’s the safest, from a public safety point of view,” he said, noting the route has been used before. “It’s not the preferred route, but it is in the interest of public safety.”

Flaherty noted the urgency of arriving at a quick decision because local and state law enforcement officials are slated to discuss emergency preparation plans Thursday. There was no way to have sidewalks and streets cleared on time, he said.

Crews from Boston Public Works removed 1,800 cubic yards of snow on Broadway in South Boston overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, according to the mayor’s office.

City crews will continue to focus on removing snow and clearing the sidewalks from Broadway in coming days to ensure “safety and accessibility on the designated snow route,” the mayor’s office said.

Milton Valencia of the Globe staff contributed. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.