Newly-elected Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is calling for change to the Mummers Parade after the annual folk tradition was mired in a series of racist and homophobic acts along the parade route.
During the 116th annual parade Friday, "Wenches" from Finnegan New Year's Brigade, a local comic club, centered their act around Caitlyn Jenner's transition to a woman. In the performance for parade judges in the shadow of City Hall, a man dressed as Bruce Jenner dropped into a wheelchair and changed into a woman's costume while Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" played.
Behind him, group members held up signs showing Bruce Jenner on a Wheaties cereal box beside Caitlyn Jenner on a Fruit Loops box. The group later marched down Broad Street with the signs — some being held by young children.
Just south of Lombard Street, a Finnegan member was caught on video shouting "F--- the gays! F--- the gays!" at parade spectators. The man also posed for photos with the sign.
John Holtz, a gay man who was watching the parade, also claimed he was attacked by Mummers who were shouting homophobic slurs. Officers offered to take a report, but Holtz declined because he didn't want to ruin the rest of the day at the police station, he said.
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The Sammar Strutters' "Siesta Fiesta" act also had the comics donning brown face and dressed in sombreros and ponchos. Some performers wore taco costumes.
A few Mummers carried signs reading "Mummers Lives Matter" and "Wenches Lives Matter" — a take on the national Black Lives Matter movement protesting police brutality and inequality.
Kenney, who blasted the Jenner act while responding to a tweet, told NBC10 Wednesday that the incidents at the parade offended not only Philadelphia but the rest of the world as well.
"The issue for me is -- the Mummers parade is such a Philadelphia thing and to have that kind of negative press -- in London and in Paris and in Spain and in Mexico -- it's just not good for the city," Kenney said.
Kenney's staff is considering changes ranging from sensitivity training to pre-screening Mummers acts.
"As you know, many of the Mummers just put on a great show for Philadelphia," said Rue Landau of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. "It's the bad actors that everyone is concerned about, including the groups that are doing a good job."
City leaders say the Mummers organization must police its own parade going forward. Critics say the parade should be shut down for good if they don't.
"They either self-police themselves and we have accountability mechanisms in place that when they can't, either those troupes are shut down or we just finish it," said Erika Almiron, the Executive Director of Juntos. "We're done with it."
The Mummers apologized and condemned the actions that took place during the parade. They also announced the man shouting anti-gay comments in the video was removed from the group and banned from future parades. The group he was a part of also said they wanted to participate in LGBT fundraisers and events. The Mummers also said other members are being penalized for several violations.
"Those kinds of things are not tolerable," said George Badey, a Mummers spokesperson. "We want a parade that's family friendly. We want a parade that's going to attract more people to it."