Annual July 4th boat parade takes on surprising political theme

People in boats took to Bayou St. John on the Fourth of July to celebrate their independence and their right to descent against their political leaders.

NEW ORLEANS - The annual boat parade in Bayou St. John is known for its counter-culture flair and this year it almost didn't happen.

"I think we all kind of knew there had been some back and forth about it being here or not," said Stephen Duncan, who came early for a spot to watch.

Last year's organizer had stepped down.

"The impression I got was that her heart wasn't in it," said Peter Schamp.

With the void, Peter Schamp along with Indivisible New Orleans, a community action group, stepped up. They revived the event, but with a strong current of anti-Trump messages.

"The history of the present administration of the United States is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations," said Schamp as he read a speech before the event.

Of course, the group faced some backlash, some of it in person, as well as online. 

"And so if someone wants to go on a parade and point out that people should deserve healthcare or things of that nature,it's nothing against America. It's the strengthening of the things that makes us great Americans," said Annie Ohry, a long time parade-goer.

Messages on the Bayou varied from concerns over the environment, free speech, to a call for unity and inclusion. 

"And today is not really a protest it's just like a space to be able to say remember what freedom is about," Ohry said.

Jenny Yanez says it's been especially tough as a Muslim woman in the current political climate.

"For the first time in many months I kind of really really appreciate July 4th in a way I didn't think I would," she said.

Fox Rich thinks you can still enjoy fireworks, while also reflecting on changes in America.

"I think that it's a great day that we can can stand up on Independence Day, you know a day where you can even speak about the African-American community that when Independence Day was launched, we were not included in that process," Rich said.

The event typically draws a couple of dozen decorated boats, but this year, by 6 p.m., we only saw a handful.

With or without the boats, the holiday spirit was not lost on those along the shore.

If all goes well, Schamp says he plans on bringing back the event next year.  And he hopes, with notice, just as many boaters will join as in years before.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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