Middletown approves parade guidelines

MIDDLETOWN — Although guidelines concerning all parades were on the table Wednesday night, it was the 2019 Hummers Parade that was the driving force behind the meeting.

Mayor and Town Council unanimously approved a set of guidelines that would give structure to future parades, including the Hummers Parade, which is set to occur as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2020, should it be granted the permits.

The parade drew sharp criticism last year for its content — including a depiction of detention at the U.S.-Mexico border — and prompted town officials to nominate a parade committee to establish guidelines going forward.

The guidelines stipulate that the onus of the parade is on a private individual, not the town of Middletown. Any violation of the guidelines falls on the individual.

With that, the guidelines state that the town “does not, either by express or implied means endorse, adopt, condemn nor condone any particular expression of free speech by any parade applicant or participant. The Town cannot, and will not, attempt to unlawfully regulate the exercise of free speech.”

The guidelines note that the Supreme Court has recognized parades as a “Form of expression and such activities thus reflect an exercise of basic Constitutional rights in their most pristine and classic form.”

It goes on to state that the court thus “shields certain acts, some of which might be deemed as offensive or inappropriate. The First Amendment does not erect a shield against merely private conduct.”

The guidelines also note that “it is the Town’s hope and desire that all parade activities are conducted in such a way as to preserve recognized First Amendment rights while, concomitantly, recognizing the rights of others in attendance, and in such a manner so as not to incite violence or other unlawful behavior, so that the right to peaceable assembly is preserved.”