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Paterson Peruvian Group Decries Mayor’s Decision to Shut Them Out of Flag-Raising Ceremony

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PATERSON, NJ – For more than 20 years, the members of the Peruvian Parade Committee have held a three-fold celebration of their homeland’s independence – a flag-raising ceremony, a parade and a festival.

But that tradition stands in jeopardy this year. That’s because the Peruvian Consulate of Paterson also wants to conduct a flag-raising ceremony on the same day, July 28.

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Both groups applied for and received city permits, the Consulate in March and the Parade Committee in May, according to Mayor Jeffrey Jones. The Parade Committee was going to hold its ceremony at 10:30 am outside City Hall, the mayor said. The Consulate was going to hold its ceremony at 11 am, also outside City Hall, the mayor said.

The mayor, however, thinks two separate Peruvian flag-raising ceremonies is one too many for Paterson. So Jones decided to designate the one held by the Consulate as the official one, partly because the city has been working with the Consulate, he said.

“I don’t want to get caught in the middle of the cultural fight,” Jones said.

But the Peruvian Parade Committee members say that’s exactly what the mayor has done. On Monday, the group says, it received a phone call from the city saying its flag-raising permit has been revoked.

“For many months, we had permission to do our own,’’ said Carlos Tello, president of the Peruvian Parade Committee. “This isn’t right.’’

“I believe it’s a political matter, to show who has the power and who doesn’t have the power,’’ said Jose Moore, a member of the Parade committee.

Tello said his group represents Paterson’s Peruvian community better than the Consulate does. He called the Consulate “an enemy of the Peruvian people.’’

The Peruvian Consulate did not respond to phone and email messages seeking its input for this story.

A contingent of members from the Peruvian Parade Committe attended Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. They asserted that their group has always done the flag-raising.

“What we have is someone trying to take that right from us,’’ said Luis Ona, who spoke for the group.

The City Council members seemed sympathetic to the committee’s plea for help.

“You’re the local guys, I would honor you guys before I would an outsider,’’ said Council President Anthony Davis. “We stand with you.’’

In an interview earlier in the day, Councilman Andre Sayegh said flag-raising ceremonies in Paterson have always been conducted by the same groups that hold the parades. That’s the case for the Turkish Parade, the Puerto Rican Parade and the Dominican Parade, he said. “I don’t understand why this is any different,’’ Sayegh said.

When asked if the Parade Committee could still hold its own flag-raising, Jones said, "I'm only going to be at one. That's the official one by the Consulatet General. Everything else, I don't know about.''

The parade is scheduled for Sun., July 29. It will begin at Main Street and Crooks Avenue at 11 am. The parade route will head down Main, and turn right at Market, ending at City Hall.

The festival will take place from noon to 8 pm at the municipal parking lot between Prospect Street and Cianci Street in the 1st Ward.

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