Mayor Ken Branner said the parade committee recommendations were deemed potentially unconstitutional by the town attorney Scott Chambers. At a special public meeting Dec. 18 the council will discuss which parts are legal and which aren't.
The fate of the Hummers Parade is still unclear.
Mayor Ken Branner said the parade committee recommendations were deemed potentially unconstitutional by the town attorney Scott Chambers.
“He has informed me as written and in his legal opinion, these guidelines would violate federal law, including First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Branner said at the town council meeting Dec. 2.
This isn’t the end. At a special public meeting Dec. 18 the council will discuss which parts are legal and which aren’t. Branner said when they meet in two weeks, it will only be to discuss approval of guidelines. They will not discuss if the Hummers parade will happen next month.
“We haven’t made any [permit] decisions at all,” Branner said. “The guidelines will be recommended to address all the parades in the town of Middletown, not specifically the Hummers, the Peach, Christmas, Little League or anything. It will be parade guidelines.”
The parade committee approved draft rules Nov. 13 focused on banning discriminatory, offensive or unsafe floats. During the committee meetings, members discussed the possibility of cancelling the 2020 parade.
Although not all of the rules might be unconstitutional, Branner said the council has to accept or deny the recommendations as one item. They can’t pick and choose which rules they want to approve or reject.
After the 2019 Hummers parade, the town council formed a committee of seven Middletown residents to recommend a set of rules for all future parades, including the Peach Festival, Little League, Christmas and any other town parades. More than half of the 12 proposed rules were directed at controversial floats in the Hummers Parade, including one portraying children in cages at border detention that garnered national attention and comment from politicians.
The parade is traditionally held on New Year’s Day to poke fun at politicians, celebrities and current events, spoofing the Philadelphia Mummers Parade. So far, anyone can decide to make a float and join the caravan down Main Street, sometimes with people deciding to join that morning.
One rule that caused constitutional concern would prohibit anything that “discriminates, is offensive to or disparage any person or group on the basis of race, gender, national origin, disability, political viewpoint, age, religion, sexual orientation or personal characteristics.”
Bans on symbols like the Confederate flag, swastika and blackface were part of the guidelines.
Jack Schreppler, who considers himself the “grand marshal” of Hummers, told the council he submitted a permit application Jan. 4 for the Jan. 1, 2020 parade.
When he asked the council if he would get his permit approved, they asked him to sit down until they moved to table the issue. Council went into executive session to discuss personnel matters and for a hearing on an employee disciplinary or dismissal case before Schreppler was answered.
Schreppler did not want to comment before the publication deadline for this week’s Transcript.