Ever year, like many prominent cities in America, Yonkers holds a St. Patrick’s Day parade. This year was the 66th time we have celebrated Irish-American heritage with a grand parade. Community members, business leaders, and politicians all gathered to meet and march down the “Emerald Mile” on McLean Ave. in South Yonkers. The parade was held on Saturday, March 18th, but preceding it were numerous other events. A flag raising, dinner, and mass were all part of this weeks-long celebration.
However, on the eve of Saturday’s parade, some in the city were worried about its security. Around 3am on Friday March 17th, a Yonkers man was arrested by federal agents on suspicion to commit acts of terror. Ridon Kola had sent threatening messages to the Yonkers Police Department for years. These culminated in more specific recent threats oriented to the imminent gathering on McLean Ave. After Kola’s arrest, Mayor Mike Spano wished to assure the residents of Yonkers. He stated, “threats like this will not intimidate us from celebrating the many contributions of our Irish American community.” Undeterred, the parade proceed as-scheduled.
The Grand Marshall of the parade this year was Fr. Brendan Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a well-known figure in the area and the Pastor at Saint Barnabas in the Bronx. His role as Grand Marshall is to lead scores of groups down the parade route. Among these were marching bands, Yonkers Police, community organizations, Irish heritage groups, and schools.
Not Red or Blue, but Green
Many politicians from Yonkers were also in attendance. Elected officers in every level of government-as well as those seeking to win office in this year’s elections-all smiled for the cameras. And this joyous celebration saw no party boundaries. US Congress member Jamaal Bowman (D) is seen below with mayoral hopefuls Margaret Fountain-Coleman (D) and Anthony Merante (R). Former City Council President Chuck Lesnick (D) was also in celebration with his miniature Irish flag.
Former Yonkers GOP party leader Justin Tubiolo was seen with some former GOP party-members. City Council Member John Rubbo and current Mayor Mike Spano are seen here standing to the left of Justin Tubiolo.
Justice for CJ
Also spotted along the parade route was a group wearing white T-shirts printed with the phrase, “Justice for CJ.” These were the family and friends CJ Hackett. Hackett, a 16 year-old boy from Yonkers, was killed in August of 2022 by a drunk driver on McLean Ave. The driver was the notably surnamed, Stephen Dolan. This t-shirt-wearing group wishes to raise awareness of what they feel was an insufficient investigation by the YPD. As well as insufficient charges by the DA against the man who killed CJ. The victim’s father, Christopher Hackett, has previously said, “I want [Dolan] in jail for a long time, not for two years. Killed too good of a kid to go away for two years.“
No Place for Hate
The City of Yonkers would surely like to move on from it’s history of racial discrimination. But, it is unfortunate that those ideals still live on in some residents who are comfortable and proud enough to display them as they did on Saturday. Independent reporter Talia Jane has revealed Neo-Nazi’s on display in front of Ned Devine’s Saloon along the parade route.
The images have been deliberately stickered-over to not promote or endorse these ideals. However, you can plainly see swastikas and also the unambiguous “14 words” slogan on the shirt of the man on the right. Investigation into these Neo-Nazis is on-going and we appreciate any community help in this research. You may email us information at [email protected]
A time to come together
The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a time for the community to come together. This year’s festivities certainly faced its challenges. A thwarted terrorist plot, an unabashed showing of hate, and those still in mourning for a life lost too soon. But the City of Yonkers is resilient. Thousands of residents took to McLean Avenue to celebrate this tradition. Because it are these traditions that bind us and help us push through tough challenges together as Yonkersites. You can see that spirit on full display in the photo gallery below. See you next year.