BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - An Easter parade in east Mims that dates back more than a half-century will not be held this year because of safety concerns.
The Brevard County Sheriff's Office would not approve the special event permit for the parade that was planned for Sunday afternoon — to the dismay of event organizers, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
"I now believe that the Brevard County Sheriff's Office is infringing on our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech," as well as the ability to assemble for a religious event, said Dwight Seigler, president of the East Mims Civic League, which now organizes the annual East Mims Easter Parade.
But James Woolsey, the Brevard County Sheriff's Office north precinct commander, detailed a variety of safety issues in his explanation for denying the permit.
"Over the past few years, BCSO has seen an increase in criminal activity and civil disruptions surrounding the Mims Easter Parade event," Woolsey said in an email dated Tuesday. "The criminal activity has included reckless driving, drug possessions and disorderly conduct. The law enforcement staffing needed in order to manage the parade safely has grown to a level that makes it very difficult for us to staff, especially considering the short notice given on the event application request."
Additionally, Woolsey said the BCSO "has recently noted an increase in violent acts that have occurred in North Brevard. Through our investigations, we have also been monitoring social media posts indicating possible retaliation to these violent acts, which could take place in the near future. In light of these circumstances, BCSO strongly believes it would be in the best interest of public safety for the citizens of North Brevard to cancel the Mims Easter Parade."
The BCSO is one of eight county entities that needed to approve the permit for the parade. Four did so before the BCSO rejected the permit, stopping the approval process.
Earlier this month, an east Mims shooting left one person dead and another injured after a large neighborhood gathering near Main Street and Harry T. Moore Avenue.
Well over 100 people were present at the time the shooting broke out, but no arrests have been made.
Seigler, though, questions the reasoning for the BCSO not giving its approval for the parade permit.
"We can't back down for fear something may happen," Seigler said, contending that would be like never flying in a plane again after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Furthermore, Seigler said, related to the concerns expressed by the BCSO: "I don't see anything happening in broad daylight," since the parade was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Seigler said the parade dates back to 1964, when it was founded by east Mims resident Corine Saunders and sponsored by St. John Primitive Baptist Church. The East Mims Civic League has been coordinating the parade for the last 20 years.
The current parade route is about 1¼ miles, ending near Cuyler Park, where there would have been an Easter egg hunt for children and other activities. The hourlong parade attracts more than 100 marchers and an estimated 2,000 spectators, Seigler said.
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