Seaworld Controversy, The Ku Klux Klan, the National Rifle Association, anti-war protestors, human rights activists — controversial participants and viewers aren’t anything new at the Rose Parade. But Wednesday’s parade could prove to be one of the most contentious in the event’s 125-year history.
A float featuring a wedding between two men has sparked a boycott by opponents of gay marriage. Animal rights advocates will protest a float by SeaWorld, alleging the company abuses the animals in its captivity. And hundreds of members of the Occupy movement are expected to trail the parade for the third year, protesting bank foreclosures, fracking and the Trans Pacific Partnership — a proposed trade agreement between a dozen countries of Asia and the Americas.
“This is the perfect venue. On the one hand, we are showing the world what America stands for — it has been controlled by corporations and that is who has sponsored the floats. On the other hand, we’ll be there showing the world that in America, people have the right to express their sentiments and opinions, the freedom of speech,” Occupy LA member Carlos Marroquin said.
With hundreds of thousands of people watching live, and tens of millions more viewing on TVs all over the globe, the parade offers the perfect opportunity to share a message, Marroquin added.
He expects about 200 people to participate in the Occupy protest — a far cry from the approximately 3,000 Occupy protesters who marched in 2012, at the height of the Occupy movement. They will trail the official Rose Parade with their own floats — one featuring a Bank of America logo that turns into a monster, another featuring a 20-foot piñata of the banker from the board game Monopoly standing on top of a foreclosed home and a third of an oil rig symbolizing the problems of fracking.
Opponents of gay marriage are taking the opposite approach. The organization SaveCalifornia.com is calling for a boycott of the parade in objection to a float by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation featuring two men getting married atop a giant wedding cake as it rolls down Colorado Boulevard.
“Many parents and grandparents are appalled that the Rose Parade is being turned from a family-friendly parade into an offensive political stunt forced upon children who are watching,” SaveCalifornia.com president Randy Thomasson said in a statement.
The nonprofit organization is also calling on its supporters to boycott the parade’s sponsors and, if they do attend, boo the float and carry signs in opposition.
The couple getting married and officials from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has participated in the parade for three years, said they never intended for their float to make a political statement. With the theme Love is the Best Protection, it is meant to celebrate communities that now have the right to get married in California thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in June.
Still, Danny Leclair says he knew some people would be upset by the wedding to his longtime partner Aubrey Loots.
“We definitely expected a backlash, but the fact of the matter is, it is legal. This is the new emerging family,” he said. “It is an opportunity for us to send a message that love is love and it comes in a myriad of forms. The more we engage in this conversation, the more we will find common ground.”