Request to cancel OS night parade expected to be nixed

Updated: Dec. 7, 2016 at 9:45 PM CST
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OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - What began as a routine parade permit discussion on Tuesday became a request by Deputy Police Chief Derek Hopper to cancel the parade because of safety concerns, citing several fights last year.

The request has nearly everybody in town talking, and not all good.

"For us to work with the police department like we have and then have something like that happen with no kind of indication, I was floored," said Heather Eason, parade captain. "With that being said, that it kind of indicates to people that have not been here before that this is some kind of dangerous parade when in fact, it's not."

To help keep it safe, Eason has a run a one-person campaign to add barricades the city needs to help. So far she's provided 85 free of charge to the city, selling advertising to pay for the cost.

But, she realizes every major parade can have its problems.

"I have been sitting in meetings with the city and police department for three years doing everything we can as a carnival association to make these events safer," said Eason. "But the facts are that when you get that many people together there are going to be issues."

Resident Bryan Levi says it would be a travesty to end a parade that is growing in popularity. Some estimates have attendance at 40,000 people.

"Every year, it turns out to be bigger and bigger and brings more people to Ocean Springs," Levi said. "We get to expose Ocean Springs, and it brings more money for our city."

Alderman Matt McDonnell says the city will accept recommendations like parking restrictions or better lighting, but the parade will go on.

"If I were the people on the parade committee or riding on a float, I'd be planning on buying Mardi Gras beads."

Mayor Connie Moran assured paradegoers that all ordinances will be enforced.

"We expect people to be orderly, but it's a Mardi Gras parade. It's at night. So we expect some rowdy behavior," Moran said. "But we are asking everybody's cooperation and families to come out and enjoy, have a good time and be safe."

Police Chief Mark Dunston will have a press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday to discuss security, and a special called meeting of the board of aldermen has been scheduled for 5 p.m. to address the parade permit.

Police Chief Mark Dunston tells WLOX News Now that he did not approve the memo that was presented to the board of aldermen.

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