By Cameron Rasmusson and Ben Olson
Local environmental group 350Sandpoint will not be allowed to march in this year’s Fourth of July parade, the second organization to be denied a permit.
In an effort to avoid controversy this year, Sandpoint Lions Club President Judy Dabrowski said the group is denying permits to applicants it perceives as political protest organizations. Sandpoint Indivisible, a group with a mission statement to resist “the Trump agenda in Sandpoint,” was also denied a place in the parade two weeks ago. The decision is an effort to keep the parade positive and was in part prompted by past concerns about radical anti-abortion groups marching.
“I don’t care which side they’re protesting for,” Dabrowski said. “If we find out they are protest groups, we won’t let them in.”
A group dedicated to calling for climate change action, 350Sandpoint members learned last week they would not be allowed to march. 350Sandpoint officials disagree with their characterization as a protest group, saying the word does not appear in their mission statement. They have asked the Lions to reconsider the decision.
“Being denied a place in the march makes us feel disappointed at missing a chance to share our message with our community,” the group said in a prepared statement. “We’re a peaceful group that supports bipartisan solutions to climate issues.”
Likewise, Rachel Castor of Sandpoint Indivisible is disappointed that the group won’t be allowed to participate in the parade.
“We wanted to show that being political doesn’t mean we’re not patriotic,” she said. “We wanted to carry flags and celebrate Independence Day.”
While both 350Sandpoint and Sandpoint Indivisible members are disappointed with the Lions’ decision, they also said there are no hard feelings. They said they understand the group is trying to keep the parade a positive experience for everyone, and they praised their local volunteer work.
“We appreciate all the Lions contribute to our community,” 350Sandpoint said in a prepared statement. “350Sandpoint wants also to contribute.”
While the Lions-organized Fourth of July parade has long been seen as a positive community event, it hasn’t been without its controversial marchers. Two years ago, a group promoting 9-11 conspiracy theories marched in the parade, an event they recorded and uploaded to YouTube. According to Dabrowski, their marching was an oversight on the Lions’ part.
“If they registered under Sandpoint 9/11 Truth, we didn’t catch it,” she said. “We didn’t intend to have them march. We make mistakes, we’re people, we’re volunteers.”