Reading what happened in federal court yesterday brought back some old memories. When I was a young lad my father’s father, James “Pa” Connolly, was a remote taciturn figure in the family. He was there but he always kept his peace, at least with respect to me. (I have to ask my siblings someday about their relations with him.)
Pa’s wife, my father’s mother, Annie O’Malley, died as a young woman when her six children, Pat, Matt, Mike, John, Jim and Theresa were in their early teens and younger. The job fell on Pa an unskilled laborer who had come to America from Ireland to raise those children. He did so with the help of his extended family. All survived the ordeal of growing up without a mother in a rough and tumble cold water flat neighborhood of the Lower End in South Boston. As they reached their working years they suffered through the turmoil of the Great Depression and the World War II years.
All except Jimmy were well into their thirties and had married by war time so they avoided serving in the Armed Forces. Jimmy ended up in the Army. I recall going over to the South End where he lived and marveling at the souvenirs he unpacked from his duffel bags which he brought back with him. He gave me a Nazi flag and a Nazi helmet. I really wanted the sword that he brought out of one the bags.
I recalled one conversation with Pa. It was at his house in Dorchester where he was living with his daughter Theresa, a former Boston policewoman, and his son-in-law, a great guy named Joe Madden. I remember I had been learning a little about the history of Boston and the treatment suffered by the Irish immigrants who came to the country who when looking for jobs faced signs saying: “Irish and dogs need not apply.”
I decided to ask him about his experience in dealing with the Boston WASPS. I don’t remember my exact question but the conversation did not last long. He said to me” “the worst people to the Irish were the Irish.”
This all came flooding back to me when I saw that Federal Judge Richard Stearns who was unfairly booted out of the Whitey case by the Appeals Court decided that Major Martin Walsh had no right to cut the South Boston St. Patrick’s day parade in half.
I had read that the mayor had done that but being concerned with other things gave it little thought. I knew, because my brother Bill was involved in the case with Chester Darling, the lawyer who appeared before Judge Stearns, that the parade organizers had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to have their First Amendment rights upheld. The Court agreed they alone had the right to decide who could march into their parade. At that time they opposed the message of the gays.
The issue was so simple that to think all the judges, except one, in Massachusetts got it wrong. We see it at play today at the Trump rallies when others come to express their opinions. They have no right to do it so they are summarily tossed out. Trump controlled the forum so he has the right to decide who would speak. (Like the old days in Massachusetts those who don’t like his message would deny him that right.)
To gasp the simplicity of the proposition picture this. You are your wedding. The best man is making a speech. One of the bride’s old boyfriend’ who crashed the affair demands to be heard next. Does he have a First Amendment right to speak? Fortunately you can still tell him to get lost.
Reading about Stearns’s decision I recognized its correctness: if the mayor could cut the route in half this year then he could do the same next year so that at some point in the future it would start at Andrew Square and end at where we used to skim our baseball cards against the side of the old John A. Andrew School.
Puppet police commissioner Evans tried to fall on the sword to protect the major saying he recommended the shorter route. That doesn’t pass muster. The mayor made the final decision and it was based on a lie.
Evans said he had “growing concern that the “dynamic” of the parade has changed in recent years” and blamed “unruly out-of-towners” for causing an increasing amount of problems. That lie too didn’t past muster. The troubles have gone down. In 2015, 10 people were arrested and 278 citations for public drinking were issued. One police officer said the crowd was generally well-behaved. In 2014, 10 people were arrested and 293 citations for public drinking were issued; in 2013, 33 people were arrested and 336 citations issued; in 2012, 8 people were arrested and 244 citations issued.
Evans continued by saying: “All I wanted to get across is we would be able to make it safer had it been shortened.” Of course, and think of how safe it would be running the Andrew Square to Andrew School route. And speaking of Andrew, I never believed he ate eight thousand cookies.
The mayor’s action was his clever way to slowly deprive the parade organizers of their First Amendment rights. This played into the media’s abhorrence of those people because their past opposition to gays marching in their parade. The major wanted to deprive the people of South Boston and those from other places the enjoyment of the Irish parade.
I would have wondered why would an Irish mayor would want to destroy an old Irish celebration except my memories brought back my grandfather’s words about who are the worst people to the Irish.