A Pride group from Iowa was left “shocked and angry” when they were told at the last minute that they would not be allowed to walk in the city of Essex’s Labour Day parade.
Shenandoah Pride planned to take part in Essex’s Labour Day celebrations by having a small group walk with a banner while drag performer Cherry Peaks rode behind them in a convertible car and handed out candy and stickers.
The group had hoped to use their presence in the parade to “let people know there is a queer community in southwest Iowa that they can be a part of,” said founding member Jessa Bears.
However, just one week before the parade was due to take place, the city informed members of the LGBTQ+ group that they would be excluded from the event.
In an email, it was explained that the decision to remove the Pride group from the parade stemmed from a meeting about public safety, after receiving threats from an opposition group.
The email, seen by KETV, also stated that their Labour Day parade would not be used to promote ‘agendas’ for or against sexual orientations or identifications.
“If they did get these threats that they’re talking about, just to reach out to us or have that conversation and saying, ‘Hey, we got these threats. Are you guys aware of this?’” Bears told the local media outlet.
Bears also noted that Shenandoah Pride had never received threats directly, and no participants in the group had safety concerns.
“We’re just a ragtag group of gay people that just wanted to walk in the damn parade,” said Bears.
Bears went on to suggest that this decision was likely made after Shenandoah Pride asked drag performer Cherry Peaks to join them in the parade.
“You know, people always talk about the LGBTQ agenda, but what is our agenda? I mean to live and love who we want?” said Peaks.
Peaks alleged to the Associated Press that it was Essex Mayor Calvin Kinney who made the final decision, with no motions or city council vote.
Council member Heather Thornton, who opposed the decision to exclude any group from the Labour Day parade confirmed that “it was the mayor himself” who made the final call.
When approached for comment from the Associated Press, Kinney did not respond.
Hitting back at the decision, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Iowa issued a letter to Mayor Kinney and the city attorney to advise them that their move to exclude the Pride group from the parade violates the First Amendment.
Despite the city’s decision to block Shenandoah Pride from walking in the parade, the group did still show up on the day, operating from a vendor booth that went down well, according to Bears.
Not only that, but a number of floats that participated in the parade included pride flags on their displays in solidarity with the group.
“Overall, regardless of the very dark shadow over the day, I’d say it was a pretty positive day,” said Bear once the celebrations came to an end.
That being said, the group maintains that “an apology would be nice.”
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