A North Carolina town canceled its decades-old Christmas parade this year over fears that protesters would disrupt it because of the event’s inclusion of Confederate groups.
City officials in Wake Forest, N.C., said last week in a Facebook post that they were planning on continuing with the parade despite concerns that the Sons & Daughters of the Confederacy would be included in the event.
But in a video published Thursday, Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones announced that the city’s Board of Directors would cancel the 70-year-old event “due to the threat of violence by groups outside our community.”
“Not once in all that time has our event been anything less than a peaceful, family-friendly celebration that highlights the wonderful spirit of our community. But sadly, times have changed, and this year is different,” Jones said.
The mayor said city officials and law enforcement learned that “growing numbers of outside groups plan to attend the parade to either support or oppose the Sons & Daughters of the Confederacy,” according to the statement.
According to Wake Forest Police Chief Jeff Leonard a group that planned to attend the Dec. 14 parade “grew in number from less than 10 to over 200,” according to the Thursday statement. He did not specify whether the group planned to support or protest the Confederate group.
“We aren’t happy telling kids they can’t attend or participate in this year’s parade – but it’s better than trying to explain to a parent whose child was injured why we chose to proceed despite so many warning signs,” he said. “No matter what side of this issue you are on, our focus is public safety and at this point, the risk of moving forward with the parade simply outweighs any possible reward.”
In the statement last week, the city explained that the Confederate group’s participation in the parade typically includes people dressed up in period costumes and a banner with an image of the Confederate flag.
“Make no mistake about it – the Town of Wake Forest is extremely sensitive to the emotion the confederate flag stirs among those on both sides of this issue. We recognize that for some the flag represents racism, hatred and bigotry, while others see it as a representation of Southern heritage protected as a matter of freedom of speech/freedom of expression,” the statement said.
Last week, Garner, N.C., also announced that it will cancel its Christmas parade due to protests over the inclusion of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.