SANDPOINT — The Sandpoint Lions Club is sticking by its decision not to allow Sandpoint Indivisible to march in its annual Independence Day parade through downtown.
The grassroots community group, which counts about 60 members, applied to be part of the Fourth of July procession, but the club denied their application.
An email informing Sandpoint Indivisible of the club’s decision pointed out that the group endeavors to push back against the agenda of President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“Our parade is organized to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. Your objectives do not go with the theme of our parade,” the club’s email said.
Sandpoint Indivisible disagrees, pointing out the United States was founded on freedom of dissent in politics and religion.
Lions Club President Judy Dabrowski clarified on Thursday that the reason for the denial was because Sandpoint Indivisible is a political protest group.
“The Lions Club is apolitical. We don’t do politics,” Dabrowski said.
However, the club has traditionally allowed Bonner County’s Democratic and Republican central committees to have a presence in the parade.
“That’s not fair and it’s not consistent. The Democrats are marching in the parade and they obviously don’t agree with the policies of a Republican president,” Sandpoint Indivisible’s Rachel Castor said.
But Dabrowski points out that the central committees don’t engage in protesting on the parade route.
“They don’t protest,” Dabrowski said. “They’re for something.”
The club also heard rumors that a local abortion abolitionist group known for its graphic imagery was considering marching in the parade, prompting the Lions to take a preemptive vote not to allow them into the parade.
But Sandpoint Indivisible does not consider itself a protest group.
“They might characterize like that but that’s certainly not how we self-identify. It’s also not what they told us (originally),” Sandpoint Indivisible’s Rachel Castor said, referring to the initial reason they were given for being turned down.
The group does not deny that its focus centers on resisting Trump’s agenda matters such as climate change and health care reform. But Castor said it’s doing so in a civilized manner.
“We’re trying to slow down the parts of the administration’s agenda that we feel are dangerous or unhelpful,” said Castor.
Castor said the nation’s withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord and the repeal and replacement of former President Barack Obama’s health care act are of deep concern to Sandpoint Indivisible.
“It’s a national issue that effects Idaho strongly, more than some of the other national issues that are happening right now,” Castor said of the matter of health care. “We’re concerned about how many people could potentially lose health care.”
Castor said the group tried to assuage the Lions Club’s concerns by assuring its members that it had no plans to project an image of protestation or be a disruptive force in the parade line.
But Dabrowksi said the club is unlikely to revisit its decision on the matter.
“It’s a celebration for our country and everybody ought to be pulling together and working together, and not be political on the Fourth of July,” Dabrowksi said.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.