Philadelphia's Mummers Parade marred by anti-gay, racist incidents
PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia's incoming mayor and some organizers of the city's annual New Year's Day parade called for increased sensitivity on Saturday, a day after some participants mocked Caitlyn Jenner, were accused of harassing gays and painted their faces brown to portray Mexicans.
The 116-year-old Mummers Parade — often characterized as the city's version of Mardi Gras — has faced annual criticism for its lack of diversity and racial insensitivity.
Critics found the activities of some amateur performance groups, called brigades, offensive again this year. One member dressed like Jenner, who won a 1976 Olympic gold medal in the decathlon as Bruce Jenner before recently transitioning to a transgender woman. And a gay man who was out walking a dog accused the same group of assaulting him but did not file charges.
That brigade, Finnegan NYB, displayed signs of a Wheaties box picturing Bruce Jenner alongside a box of Froot Loops picturing Caitlyn Jenner. A man with that group was seen shouting expletives about gays in a video shot by New York Daily News editor Nick Kurczewski, Philly.com reported Saturday.
Philadelphia police and Mayor Michael Nutter's office didn't immediately respond to phone calls and emails Saturday, but Mayor-elect Jim Kenney weighed in.
“It was bad. Hurtful to many Philadelphians. Our Trans Citizens do not deserve this type of satire/insult. #Berespectful,” Kenney tweeted.
Michael Inemer Sr., who identified himself as a captain of the Finnegan Mummers group, refused to apologize for the Jenner display, saying it was a parody in keeping with the parade's history that includes cross-dressing. He did apologize for the marcher who shouted against gays.
“I find myself, as do many, many members of Finnegan NYB, wholeheartedly apologizing for the abrasive, gross and disturbing action of one of our members who, unfortunately, took it upon himself to embarrass us all with his conduct and inexcusable and hurtful insults to the crowd at the end of the parade,” Inemer wrote.
The group had tweeted earlier: “One bad apple and blame the whole group. Typical of people out there. THAT individual has been dealt with in house. #LoveGays #HappyNewYear.”
But Inemer's email went further, saying the marcher who shouted the slurs would be “dealt with without any outside influence.”
John Holtz, 28, told reporters he was walking his parents' dog with friends when a group of Mummers approached him Friday. He said one called him a gay slur and another punched him in the eye.
“They start giving me some kind of crap because I'm a big guy and I have this little fluffy dog,” Holtz said, referring to his parents' Shih-Tzu. When Holtz went to confront the group about the comment, he said, another man “jumped in, clocked me in the face.”
Officers asked Holtz whether he wanted to file a police report, but he declined, not wanting to spend hours at the precinct with his friends on the holiday.
Holtz believes the men who accosted him were part of the same group satirizing Jenner.
Inemer said he did not know whether Finnegan NYB members were involved in the incident with Holtz.
George Badey, the Publicity Director for the Philadelphia New Year's Shooters and Mummers Association, said parade organizers expected to issue a statement later Saturday.
Before apologizing, the Finnegan NYB group tweeted a photo of a Mummer holding a sign that read “Mummers Lives Matter” — an apparent reference to the Black Lives Matter group that has protested the deaths of blacks at the hands of police in various parts of the country.
About 50 members of the Black Lives Matter group and the Coalition for Real Justice staged a protest during the parade. Two people with the group were cited, one for disorderly conduct, the other for disrupting a procession.
The incidents during this year's parade occurred even after organizers created the “Philadelphia Division,” which was meant to diversify the parade with two new Hispanic performance groups, a black drill team and the LGBT Miss Fancy Brigade.