Participants in the PrideFest parade in St. Louis, Missouri, have come under fire after they flew a Blue Lives Matter flag on their float during the parade on June 25.
Members of the Balloon Brigade, an entrant in the city's PrideFest parade, apologized after they faced sharp criticism over social media for their decision to fly the Blue Lives Matter flag, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The group also pledged to return the two awards they received for their float in the parade.
"As the co-creator/producer of the St. Louis Balloon Brigade, I wish to apologize to the members of the community that I have offended,” wrote Chad Carroll in a statement on Facebook, reports the Advocate. "I approved a flag on our float in the Pride parade that has deeper meaning to some than I previously understood. I have been educated today."
Blue Lives Matter is a movement designed to support members of the police departments around the country. The movement was created as a response to Black Lives Matter, an ideological group founded to support the black community.
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The St. Louis area, particularly nearby Ferguson, became a flashpoint in the police brutality debate after the death of Michael Brown, a black man killed by a police officer.
"We flew the Blue Lives Matter flag in honor of the lesbian daughter of one of our members,” Carroll wrote in his post. "She came out relatively recently, and then became a police officer. When I was asked permission for this weeks ago I was only thinking of what a great show of love and respect for his family this was. There was absolutely no political motivation or activism intended by this display."
Before Carroll's apology, a judge for PrideFest voiced his displeasure after finding out that a Blue Lives Matter flag was flown on a winning float.
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"We at the judges tent could not see any of the flags they were flying because they were using their balloons to block our view of them," wrote Ben James on Facebook.
"As someone who personally supports Black Lives Matter, I am disgusted to learn that this flag was hidden from us. And I am further upset that we awarded this to them; knowing now that they had this flag I wish we could take these awards away."
The nonprofit organization that operates PrideFest said it does not prohibit any political groups from participating in its parades, as it is its policy to include diverse voices.
It also noted that no official Black Lives Matter group asked to attend, and if one had, it would have been included, a spokesperson said.