The New Year's Day tradition Hummers Parade hits the streets for its 49th year as protesters held signs to show dissent.
The Hummers Parade was able to live to ring in 2020 – and inspiration came from controversy.
Hummers took aim at the Middletown residents who wanted parade guidelines and protesters stood at the corner of Broad and Main streets.
The New Year’s Day tradition had floats with a man wearing cardboard box with “censored” on it, people dressed as snowflakes and a man riding a “G-rated” scooter.
More than 20 members of the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend NAACP and other members of the community stood silently holding signs, some saying “Racism is not a joke” and “Racism is not funny.”
The Hummers Parade sparked public meetings after a float in 2019 portrayed children in border detention. Some residents demanded action from the town.
When the parade made its way to Main Street, Jack Schreppler — who calls himself “grand marshal for life” of Hummers — hugged spectators and wished a happy new year to the protesters as he shook their hands.
Schreppler said he was happy to see the residents using their First Amendment guarantee of free speech to voice their opinion. Schreppler said this year had fewer floats than usual. He thinks controversy might have contributed to the turnout. The parade had about 20 entries poking fun at President Donald Trump, the Wilmington bear spotting and climate change activist Greta Thunberg.
Scott Saunders, president of the NAACP chapter, said the Latino community was hurt by last year’s parade and felt like their voices were not heard by the town council, so the NAACP came out in support.
“Civil rights are human rights and we are all human beings. Everyone deserves to be treated decently,” Saunders said. “We want to send the message that the depictions in last year’s parade were inappropriate.”
The Middletown town council formed a committee that gave the town a set of recommendations recommended banning discriminatory, offensive or unsafe floats for all future parades earlier this month. Most of the rules were targeted at the Hummers Parade.
They were deemed potentially unconstitutional by the town lawyer, violating the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. The town council approved guidelines Dec. 18 that put the responsibility of all parades on the person who submits the parade permit.
Emy Diaz-Rivera, a Middletown resident, said the people who came out to dissent want to make people aware that some of the floats are derogatory, targeting certain religions and cultures, and it should not be tolerated.
“The harm to human beings is not satire,” she said. “There is nothing funny about people suffering. There’s nothing funny about kids suffering.”
Diaz-Rivera thinks the town will eventually put stricter guidelines on the parade.
Dawn Broughton, a pastor at Living Grace Worship Cathedral, said she came out to protest because she wants equality and respect for all, and the issues people go through should not be mocked
“We are all going through something personally whether it be homelessness, job loss, depression, drug abuse,” Broughton said “[The protesters] understand freedom of speech, but also understand respect for others.”