Tybee Island, GA – Hundreds of citizens took to the streets to participate in an Irish Heritage Parade on Saturday, even after the event was canceled by city officials due to COVID-19 concerns.
The unsanctioned event created occasional chaos and mayhem as regular traffic continued in both directions along the Butler Avenue parade route, the Savannah Morning News reported.
Law enforcement officers scrambled to control traffic as citizens carried on with their procession.
The fate of the Irish Heritage Parade had been in limbo since March 11, when the city of Savannah canceled its St. Patrick’s Day events in an effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Savannah Morning News reported.
During a tight vote the following day, the Tybee Island city council initially opted to carry on with the Irish Heritage Parade.
But within 24 hours, President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency due to the spread of COVID-19.
On Saturday morning, Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions released a statement on the city’s website explaining that her attempts to persuade the city council to cancel the Irish Heritage Parade permit had been unsuccessful, the Savannah Morning News reported.
“Although the Governor has now declared a state of emergency, their decision to move forward with the event is unchanged,” Sessions wrote. “Due to the circumstances that have evolved, I cannot support or participate in the parade. I will continue to work with the city manager and staff to protect the safety of our residents and visitors, and encourage everyone to be cautious and follow the suggestions of health professionals.”
At approximately 11 a.m. on Saturday, the Irish Heritage Committee and the City of Tybee Island finally announced that the event would be “postponed,” according to the city’s website.
Undeterred, hundreds of participants converged at memorial park and kicked off the parade at 2:30 p.m. as if no cancellation had ever been made, the Savannah Morning News reported.
“Do we know how to do it, or what?” yelled Mike Roush, the Grand Marshall of the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade that had been cancelled days earlier.
“We’re always going to be Tybee strong no matter what, and were going to support local businesses,” resident Jennifer Rentires told WSAV. “We’re just going to enjoy the day, it’s one big block party here at Tybee.”
Police managed to block traffic just enough to contain the parade to one lane and avoid collisions between motorists and the participants, the Savannah Morning News reported.