News reports prior to today's Circle City Pride parade discussed a controversy that was brewing because the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had committed an official presence in the parade for the first time in the event's history. The anti-gay bigoted Indiana Family Institute, which pushed the legislature to approve a marriage discrimination amendment to the Indiana Constitution, protested the police department's participation in the event even though IMPD has long participated in other cultural and community events, such as the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Indiana Black Expo, Circle City Classic and the Indy 500 Festival Parade.
According to parade organizers, Ballard ordered the withdrawal of the official IMPD entry in today's Circle City Pride Parade at the last minute, as well as a planned fire engine from Indianapolis Fire Department Station 7 located on Massachusetts Avenue along today's parade route. Despite the official withdrawal, several members of IMPD walked in today's parade in uniform, along with a strong presence from Sheriff John Layton and a number of his deputies. When this blogger asked Ballard campaign representative Megan Robertson, who was representing Ballard at today's Pride festival, why Ballard ordered the withdrawal of the public safety department representatives, she became very defensive and referred to me as that "jerk blogger" who opposes Ballard. For the record, this "jerk blogger" is an elected Republican precinct committeeman in the downtown Lockerbie precinct who worked his butt off to elect Ballard four years ago when few other Republicans would support him.
Apparently concerned by the political fallout of Ballard's lack of presence at the record-attended event, particularly given his Democratic opponent Melina Kennedy's high profile presence today in the parade and festival, Ballard's campaign dispatched him to make a late afternoon appearance at the festival taking place at the American Legion Mall. After a number of negative confrontations with attendees, Ballard departed the event less than pleased by how he was received.
While numerous Democratic and Libertarian candidates participated in today's parade and festival, Republican candidates were virtually invisible. One Republican council candidate, AJ Feeney-Ruiz, who is seeking the 15th District council seat that includes downtown Indianapolis, was the only Republican candidate to campaign at today's event other than Ballard's belated appearance that fell flat. Republicans will have to figure out sooner or later that it must adopt a different tact if it wishes to be competitive in big city races.
There is also growing discontent in Indianapolis' GLBT community with Ballard over an effort at enacting domestic partner health insurance benefits for Indianapolis-Marion County employees. City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn and At-large Councilor Barbara Malone behind the scenes had agreed to support an effort this year to enact an ordinance extending health insurance benefits to domestic partners but abandoned their support under pressure from the Ballard administration, which was concerned about the reaction of anti-gay bigoted conservatives like Micah Clark's Indiana Family Institute, which played absolutely no part in Ballard's 2007 upset win over Bart Peterson, an election that was won strictly on economic issues. All in all, it's been a disastrous weekend for Ballard's re-election campaign against Melina Kennedy.
UPDATE: I can't say that I'm surprised, but the Star's Erika Smith prints outright lies in today's Star about the participation of IMPD and IFD in the Circle Center Pride parade. Smith writes:
This year, there was the added mainstream blessing of a sponsorship and live broadcast from WNOU-FM (100.9). Plus, members of IMPD and IFD walked in the parade in uniform for the first time. Mayor Greg Ballard also made an appearance at the festival -- from what I can tell, another first.
"It's time to get out of the closet and show that we're just like everybody else," said Harold S. Turner, a captain with IMPD and secretary on Indy Pride's board of directors.
Next year, Turner and his colleagues at IFD say they hope to do more. They're thinking parade floats and multiple booths at the festival.
"It's visibility and letting our community know that we're there, regardless of whatever sexual orientation, race or ethnicity," said Ruth Morrison, a battalion chief for IFD.
Public gestures like that go a long way to bridge the gap that legislation like the gay marriage ban have forged.Earlier this week, Fox 59 News reported:
The uniformed officers will be riding in the department issued Humvee and have specific direction to not decorate the car, change the car in any way or add anything to their uniforms.If Smith actually watched the parade, she would have noticed the department issued Humvee never made it into the parade, nor did the fire engine from Station 7. That's because orders were given to withdraw the offficial entries in the parade early Saturday morning in the wake of the protests lodged by the Indiana Family Institute as reported. The only official law enforcement vehicle entries were the vehicles authorized by Sheriff John Layton, who personally rode in the parade. The IMPD and IFD officers who appeared in the parade did so in their volunteer--not official capacity (Note: one of the IMPD officer's cars followed the officers who walked in uniform). I heard that information directly from a parade organizer, and I confirmed it with my own eyes. There was no department issued Humvee recruiting vehicle in Saturday's parade. Ballard's appearance came late in the day and was unofficial and was likely the result of the negative feedback his people had been getting throughout the day as a result of his decision to pull the official entries in the parade earlier in the day, particularly given the warm welcome Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy received during her appearance at the parade and festival. Thousands of attendees wore "Kennedy For Mayor" stickers at Saturday's event. Nobody wore stickers supporting Ballard other than his campaign representatives. He did not confirm his attendance with event organizers so he could be officially recognized as participating in the event. Smith is completely misrepresenting what transpired to the Star's readers. She doesn't even acknowledge the protests lodged with the City by the Indiana Family Institute. Just more of the shoddy reporting we've come to expect from the Star.