When we reported that the annual Halloween parade in Anoka, Minnesota, had denied a request from a gay youth group to march in the procession, organizers said there simply wasn’t room for the kids.
Now it’s looking more and more like they were talking out of the pumpkin-pie hole.
Members of Justin’s Gift were told in a letter signed by parade chair Elizabeth McFarland that there were no spots left in the October 27 event: “At this time we are unable to accept your application for the parade. “We have reached our maximum for walking units.”
But as MPR News uncovered, the application for the parade license wasn’t submitted until October 1o, more than two weeks after Justin’s Gift was told the parade was full. The form estimates about 31,000 people with 250 parade units will be participating.
Anoka Police Chief Philip Johanson says to his knowledge there’s no official cap on the number of parade participants a group can have, provided they file accurate paperwork.
“The kids are pretty upset,” said Justin’s Gift vice president Jefferson Fietek, who explained that roughly 30 students from the group had intended to dress up as their favorite fairytale characters. “We’re trying to show these kids that they’re part of the community and unfortunately it backfired and sent a completely different message.”
At first Fietek didn’t want to believe malice or homophobia was responsible for the rejection, especially considering the rash of LGBT-youth suicides the region had seen in recent years and claims that the Anoka-Hennepin School District was indifferent to the needs of queer youth:
“The whole basis of our organization is we really want to be positive, because the community went through two years of really a very public nightmare,” he said, referring to problems at the Anoka-Hennepin School District with suicide and anti-gay bullying.
However, Fietek said, “As time goes on and the more people are digging and the just complete lack of cooperation from the Anoka Halloween Parade committee in regards to its own private citizens and reporters, it’s starting to get harder and harder to sort of be positive about this, and I’m really starting to really question.”
He added, “I want to be wrong in this thought, but the more information that gets presented to me, just the less and less this seems to make any logical sense.”
For now, Justin’s Gift plans to hold a Halloween dance for the members who were planning on marching in the parade. We need to get Sharon Needles down to Anoka for that party.