Despite the chilling weather, elected officials and marchers promoted diversity, inclusivity and unity in a time of divisiveness.
“This year, we welcome our Muslim brothers and sisters and immigrants,” said Brendan Fey, the longtime co-chair of the parade, “to say you are welcome here.”
St. Pat's For All started as an alternative parade to the 5th Avenue celebration in Manhattan, which until last year had excluded the LGBT community from participating.
“Now this has become part of our annual tradition in this part of Queens,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris. “We’re sending a statement to the country about inclusivity, diversity and the importance of celebrating our differences.”
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the parade resulted out of “rejection and exclusion” in the 5th Avenue celebration.
“When you think about the history of this parade, this was a resistance to what was happening,” Mark-Viverito said. “What a great symbol right now that this parade celebrates inclusion and the beautiful diversity of the LGBT community and the Irish community.”
This year’s grand marshals were disability rights advocate Anastasia Somoza and talk show host Phil Donahue.
Somoza spoke at last year’s Democratic National Convention when the party nominated Hillary Clinton for president. Somoza said she first marched in the parade in 2000.
“Hillary and I marched together in this parade in 2000 representing everything I represent today: equality, diversity and inclusion,” she said. “I’m so proud to roll with you today like I have for the last 17 years.”
Donahue said he’s marching to convey one message: that “we are all God’s children.”
The media personality then led the crowd in singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
“Our crowd is small today because the weather has been so difficult for us. It was 16 degrees this morning, and it has risen to the warmth of 20,” Donahue said. “Let’s know even though our crowd is small, our voice will be loud as ever.”