Flynn’s right: Southie’s parade needs a re-set

Our friends and neighbors in South Boston have grown accustomed to disruptions and some measure of bad behavior from the hundreds of thousands of people who descend on “the town” each year for the St. Patrick’s Day-themed parade through their streets.

But, in the aftermath of this year’s events, there’s a growing sentiment that the parade – along with the throngs of people that it attracts – has become more than just a nuisance. It’s a public safety hazard.

Ed Flynn, who represents South Boston on the City Council, spoke out about his own frustrations, and those of his constituents, on Monday, the day after “almost a million” people, by his count, overwhelmed the neighborhood.

“If we are not able to meet basic standards of decency and respect the South Boston neighborhood, the parade should be moved out of South Boston indefinitely,” Flynn wrote in a post on social media.

He added: “We must make major changes and implement a zero tolerance for public drinking, any form of violence, fighting and destruction of property, and other quality of life issues.”

In an interview with WBUR, Flynn suggested that the parade might be moved downtown, where spectators congregate for rolling rallies to celebrate victories in sports. Other parades, like the city’s annual Veteran’s Day parade, are also held in the City Hall area. And if the re-located parade route remains a safety hazard, it might be an option to put it on pause.

Based on reports gleaned from official sources and first-hand accounts from friends who attended – or attempted to attend – Sunday’s parade, Flynn’s assessment rings true. The crowds that flooded into South Boston on Sunday tipped everything into a dangerous situation. Among the 12 reported arrests, police reported that two firearms were recovered from men who were so inebriated they needed assistance to walk. Fights and assaults were rampant. One high school student was jumped and beaten so badly he needed to visit the emergency room. Another young man was “sucker-punched” and left with a broken jaw.

Even where the throngs did not turn violent, the volume of people packed into a tight section of the city was way too much. The T’s Broadway station was so jammed that the Red Line cars couldn’t stop at the platform. People felt unsafe. Public drunkenness was pervasive and relatively unchecked.

One resident who lives on the parade route told us that she wanted to leave the neighborhood for the day but felt it necessary to essentially “shelter in place” to protect her property. “I’m too afraid to leave,” she reported.

This is no way to celebrate the rich history of our city.

Perhaps it’s time to consider splitting up the dual holiday. Celebrate Evacuation Day in Southie, home to Dorchester Heights, the pivotal historic site from which the liberation of Boston was achieved on March 17, 1776. The date – arguably more important than the saint’s day in the Boston context – can still be a celebratory event, but more localized and, perhaps, less of a draw for those whose object is over-the-top drinking.

From the Irish American perspective, it must be noted that the boorish behavior by some who invade the city on St. Patrick’s weekend is an affront to those of us who claim Irish ancestry. People who see the need to get plastered to the point of inebriation aren’t celebrating a heritage; they’re making a mockery of it.

The Irish community, South Boston, and the entire city deserve better. Our elected leaders should follow Councillor Flynn’s lead in making the changes needed to preserve public safety and the best traditions of our city’s neighborhoods.

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