BEVERLY — City officials are denouncing residents who held an unauthorized "Horribles" parade in Beverly Farms on July 4 featuring signs that officials called "racist" and "sexist."
The annual parade had been canceled by organizers due to the coronavirus pandemic, but some residents went ahead with one on their own. Mayor Mike Cahill called one of the signs in the parade "racist" and said another sign targeted two private individuals and their families with "messages of hate."
"This is all completely wrong and unacceptable, and things have to change," Cahill wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. "We cannot watch this overt bullying and racism and be silent."
The Beverly Farms Horribles Parade dates back to the 1880s and often features floats, costumes and signs satirizing current events. Cahill apologized for the parade's content after the 2016 and 2017 events drew public scrutiny.
The Beverly Farms-Prides Crossing Fourth of July Committee canceled the parade this year due to the pandemic. But some residents took it upon themselves to hold a parade on their own, mostly cars and trucks driving through the Farms downtown area with signs on the vehicles.
Videos posted on Facebook showed portions of the parade. One sign read "2020, Something Gone Wong." Another sign named two people under the question, "Who Do I Hate?" One truck had a sign referring to a pornographic website.
Cahill also criticized the parade committee for sending out an email "endorsing and celebrating" those actions and highlighting the racist attack by posting a picture of one of the signs in their email.
Medley Long, a member of the Beverly Farms-Prides Crossing Fourth of July Committee, said the parade was not sanctioned by the committee. He said the committee did send an email after the event, but said he did not believe the email endorsed the actions of the people in the parade.
"The committee had nothing to do with what went on," Long said.
Other city officials also took to social media to condemn the parade. City Councilor Julie Flowers said she was "disappointed and angry" about the event.
"A parade down public streets that uses racism, sexism, and attacks on private citizens . . . create a space and a community that feels hostile, exclusionary, racist, and unsafe," she wrote.
Lorinda Visnick, the Ward 6 School Committee member who represents Beverly Farms, called the parade "totally disrespectful to the greater community." In addition to the offensive signs, she said pictures and videos show that many spectators were not social distancing or wearing masks.
"I am disgusted beyond belief," Visnick said in a Facebook post. "What will do as a city: turn a blind eye or confront the bad behavior?"
Cahill said on Facebook that the city is scheduling "public conversations" to talk about how Beverly can become an "intentionally anti-racist and loving city."
"Unfortunately, this past Saturday, the actions of a few Beverly residents in Beverly Farms again highlighted that we all have more miles to travel together," he wrote.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535 or email@example.com.