HOMESTEAD — Undaunted by the cancellation of the traditional Homestead Veterans Day Parade, a group of veterans this week announced that it is organizing its own parade, and would not necessarily ban the Confederate battle flag from being displayed in it.
Officials with the local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Homestead say they have submitted a permit application to the city, seeking to hold this year’s Veterans Day Parade here.
Wednesday’s revelation came a day after the South Florida Times reported on its website that the Military Affairs Committee (MAC) of the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce, which has previously organized the 47-year event, voted recently to cancel this year’s Nov. 11 parade. The move followed an announcement by the MAC last month that it would hold the parade, but ban the display of the Confederate battle flag.
The flag is a symbol of southern pride to some, but represents slavery, lynching and racial mistreatment to others.
“We made the decision to go forward, and we just put the application in. I don’t know if we are going to get any resistance to it, but the application has been filed with the city, and we are waiting for the permit,” said William Thibault, a retired veteran who is working with the Arrant-Smith VFW Post 4127 in Homestead to organize the alternative version of the parade.
Homestead city spokeswoman Lillian Delgado said in an email to the newspaper that the VFW has not yet submitted an application to hold the parade, but has inquired about street closures for the event.
The VFW is sending out invitation applications from an established list of past parade participants, with a Nov. 6 deadline for them to be returned. The VFW has also said that Jim Pierce, who has handled parade organizational tasks for the MAC over the past several years, is offering his support to the VFW-sponsored event.
Thibault said the group would not automatically bar the Sons of Confederate Veterans from participating.
“First of all, I have no comment on that because I don’t know who will or will not respond to the applications we are sending out,” Thibault said. “This will not be a decision made by me alone. The committee allows for participation by any organization that honors veterans, and if they tell us on their applications what their theme is, and whether they will have floats, etc., then a decision will be made whether they meet our requirements or not.”
But already, Gregory E. Kalof, a commander in the Miami-Dade County-based Private George Perry camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said his organization will participate in the VFW parade, no differently than other veterans’ organizations.
The parade is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 11 at noon in downtown Homestead, according to the forms that the VFW is sending to would-be applicants. The route will be the same as in previous years.
“This parade, honoring the memory of the men and women who have fought to defend our nation and liberty is the oldest and, usually, the largest Veteran’s Day celebration in Miami-Dade County,’’ the form reads. “As such, we expect all entries will be designed to convey the patriotic theme of the holiday.”
Thibault said the VFW has been assured that it will get financial and other support, but he did not elaborate on the source of that support. The city of Homestead has provided financial support to previous Veterans Day parades.
Delgado did not respond to a question from the newspaper about whether the city would provide in-kind or logistical support.
The MAC canceled its version of this year’s parade after several participants pulled out due to controversy surrounding the participation of Confederate States groups in last year’s parade, and the display of the Confederate battle flag during the event.
The Miami-Dade NAACP and some residents opposed the participation of Confederate organizations, and threatened an economic boycott of the chamber’s member businesses if those groups were not barred from participating in future parades.
After the MAC canceled its version of this year’s parade, Bishop Victor T. Curry, president of the Miami-Dade NAACP, said in a statement emailed to the media on Tuesday: “The Sons of the Confederate Veterans organization and the Confederate flag have no place in a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored and taxpayer-supported event.’’
Curry also said, “The NAACP and the coalition of organizations and concerned Americans does not desire the cancellation of the parade but rather a parade that will truly honor U.S. veterans and not insult significant numbers of our citizens. Confederate symbols are symbols of support for white supremacy, resistance to desegregation and fighting to maintain slavery. They are as offensive as the Nazi swastika.”
In reaction to the announcement of the VFW’s sponsorship of the parade, Brad Brown, first vice president of the Miami-Dade NAACP, released a statement via email on Wednesday.
“Our statements still stand,’’ Brown said in the email. “Whether it is the Chamber, the VFW or any other organization, we believe the Veterans Day parade should be a dignified event honoring Veterans’ sacrifices with the American Flag. It is no place for flaunting Confederate symbols as was done last year by driving in circles on a motorcycle. We call on everyone not to participate unless the rules of the participation are such as to ensure Confederate symbols will not be there.”