Sons of Revolution Appeal City’s Denial of Parade Permit
The Sons of the Revolution, a New York-based group of descendants of Revolutionary War veterans, are appealing the city’s denial of a permit to hold a parade this fall marking the 225th anniversary of the departure of British troops from the city.
Evacuation Day in New York celebrates the last shot of the Revolutionary War, a cannonball blasted at Manhattan from the deck of a British naval vessel as the last Redcoats left America. On November 25, 1783, after the Treaty of Paris took hold, the British troops who had occupied New York City for nearly a decade loaded onto ships to head back to England.
The Sons of the Revolution are stalled in their efforts to hold the 225th anniversary parade on November 25, a Saturday. The New York City Police Department, which has jurisdiction over parades in the city, turned down the organization’s application for a parade on Broadway from City Hall to the Battery.
“I’m concerned that every imaginable ethnic group gets to celebrate their pride, every year, on the main thoroughfares of this city. But we’re not allowed to celebrate the end of the war that formed this nation and ensured our liberty as Americans. We only have this parade once every 25 years,” the executive director of the Sons of the Revolution, Richard Gregory, said.
On Evacuation Day a group of British soldiers hoisted the Union Jack on the prominent flagpole in what’s now Battery Park, cut the halyard, and greased the pole in an effort to sail out of New York Harbor under his country’s colors. But a young sailor, John Van Arsdale, quickly fashioned a set of cleats to climb the flagpole, according to the president of the Fraunces Tavern Museum, John Mauk Hilliard.
When he reached the top, he tore down the British colors and nailed the Stars and Stripes to the top of the pole. The British naval vessels were filled with battle-hardened Redcoats who suffered the indignity of sailing out under the banner of the new American nation. The British took one last shot at Castle Clinton from a frigate as they sailed away, according to Mr. Hilliard.
Mr. Gregory said that the Sons of the Revolution submitted an application for a parade permit about one year ago; they received a Parade Permit Application Disapproval Notice from the police department on May 21. A representative of the Patrol Borough Manhattan South rejected the application on the grounds that the “proposed activity and surrounding events will substantially or unreasonably interfere with traffic in the area contiguous to the parade route.”
A spokeswoman for Mayor Bloomberg said that City Hall has no jurisdiction over parades in New York City, and that appeals of denied applications must be directed to the NYPD. Mr. Gregory said that the organization has formally filed an appeal with the police department’s Investigation Review Section. As of last night, a spokesman for the NYPD said the Chief of the Department was reviewing the matter.
The police department suggested that a “stationary event in Battery Park” be held as an alternative to a parade down Broadway. “We’re asking to hold the parade on a Saturday,” Mr. Gregory said. “You can practically bowl down lower Broadway on a Saturday morning — there’s nobody down there. How can traffic be a concern? To be told we should have a picnic in Battery Park is a bit of an insult.”
An editorial in The New York Sun last year reported that the city hosts annual parades such as the Million Marijuana March, as well as parades honoring Haiti, Turkish-American relations, and Philippine independence. In the past year, the Hare Krishna parade marched down Fifth Avenue. The largest parade in New York City occurs every June, when Puerto Ricans converge in Manhattan for their annual parade.
The Sons of the Revolution’s frustration also stems from the fact that the city pulled out the stops for its last Evacuation Day parade on November 26, 1983, the event’s bicentennial. The parade route was even longer in 1983: It started on Walker Street at Broadway and ended at the Battery.
The 26th U.S. Army Band led the parade, followed by American, British, French, Hessian, Loyalist, and Spanish historic units that fought in the Revolution. The parade also included the Old Guard of the City of New York, the Knickerbocker Grey Cadet Corps, and color guards from both the Army and Navy regional commands.
The rector of Trinity Church at the time, the Reverend Robert Ray Parks, delivered the invocation from the reviewing stand, which included Mayor Koch. The parade stopped at the Trinity Churchyard for a moment of silence in front of the monument there dedicated to the many Revolutionary War soldiers who died on British prison ships moored in New York Harbor during the war.
In the 19th century, the parade route was longer still and some of the day’s activities centered on Union Square Park. The imposing equestrian statue of George Washington in that park commemorates Evacuation Day. The bronze sculpture captures the moment Washington outstretched his arm and offered a benediction over his troops as they watched the last of the British to leave the city.
Boston celebrates its own Evacuation Day on March 17, and has combined the commemoration of British troops leaving that city with its St. Patrick’s Day parade since 1901.
By JAY AKASIE