HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Huntsville St. Patrick's Day Parade apologizes after finding out a bystander yelled at a young boy, calling his organization's members "terrorists."
The St. Patrick's Day parade in Huntsville was disrupted Saturday when a man came out of the crowd and began yelling at a child participating in the event.
The child was holding the flag for Father Trey Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The Catholic group released a statement on Facebook saying the man who called them terrorists and other horrible names was holding a flag from the Ulster Unionist Party, which is a protestant political group.
The disturbance stopped almost as soon as it began. The man ran away from the parade route. Parade organizers are working to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
"Really," asked Anya Douglas, parade director.
She had one word to describe her reaction to Saturday's incident. Douglas was appalled.
"It doesn't sound like he broke any laws. He didn't really cause any trouble. The biggest thing was that he did aim his hatred towards a young child. There is just no excuse for that," she said.
Douglas says this type of behavior will not be allowed.
"This has never happened before so this is a lesson learned. This is something we will discuss in our after-action meeting," she said.
At a public event with a large crowd, how can they keep the public safe? Huntsville Police are already involved with this event. Douglas says the answer might lie in the number of volunteers that participate. She says increasing the number of volunteers could also help them increase security. Five volunteers came out on parade day. They'd like to have 45-50 volunteers.
"It increases the chances that if something like this does happen we can address it rather quickly instead of after the parade," Douglas said.
She says more than 130 people took part in the parade and only having 5 volunteers created difficulties. She says in a perfect world...
"I would have a yellow vested volunteer march with each and every single group instead of just at the head of a province and at the back of a province," she explained.
She hopes more people chose to volunteer in the future.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, message the Huntsville St. Patrick's Day Facebook page or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Facebook post from the Huntsville St. Patrick's Day Parade stated:
"We recently learned that a lone individual attempted to disrupt our parade with very antisocial behaviour. This individual decided to target the Father Trecy Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians - a very large and traditional part of our parade. Whether this was an anti-Catholic move or a political move, it was still inappropriate. Especially considering that this individual decided to yell his hateful rhetoric at one of our younger parade participants who had volunteered to carry the Irish colours, instead of one of the adults."
The Parade does not condone this type of behaviour and listed three distinct points:
- KIDS are ABSOLUTELY off limits! To attack a child - verbally or otherwise - is an act of cowardice! We are grateful it was only verbal and that our young volunteer is a very stout young fellow, but if this type of behaviour is observed in future parades, it will be dealt with swiftly by law enforcement.
- HATRED and INTOLERANCE of any kind is NOT tolerated by this parade or its committee! The Irish know all too well what it is like to be exposed to hatred and intolerance and we try very hard to do the exact opposite when we interact with others.
- Everybody has their own religious and political views. This does not give you an excuse to use those views to disrupt one of the grandest community events that has been put together in the spirit of community and fellowship.
The Father Trecy Division of the Ancient Order of Hiberians also put out a statement on Facebook:
"We are very disconcerted that one lone person came out near the end of the parade waving an Ulster unionist flag and didn’t yell near the Brothers, but yelled at one of our wee ones proudly carrying the tri color in front of us and calling us terrorists and other horrible names. Then he walked fast away waving his flag and turned off the parade route."