WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) – The Town of Wake Forest, a week after reinforcing plans to move forward with its annual Christmas parade, announced Wednesday it canceled the event “due to the potential for violence,” a press release said.
This decision comes a week after Garner announced it was canceling its Christmas parade, citing “concerns that the event could be targeted for disruption.”
The Wake Forest Downtown, Inc. Board of Directors voted Wednesday to cancel the parade. The release said board members heard from Wake Forest police that they had received “credible information in recent days that growing numbers of outside groups plan to attend the parade to either support or oppose the Sons & Daughters of the Confederacy.”
Wake Forest Police Chief Jeff Leonard said only one group notified the Town of plans to protest.
“Groups that contact us about their plans to protest tend to follow our rules and regulations,” Leonard said in the release. “We’re concerned about outside agitators that don’t notify us. Radicals don’t typically call ahead. These aren’t area residents we’re talking about. These are professional protesters who have no regard for the safety and well-being of others.”
Furthermore, Leonard said that in one example, police received credible information that a group planning to show up at the parade grew from 10 people to more than 200 over the course of two days, the release said.
In the release, Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones said she was “angry, disappointed and heartbroken” to learn of the parade’s cancellation but ultimately supports the decision:
“For most of us, our annual Christmas parade is about spending time with friends and family and celebrating the spirit of the season. Yet there are some outside our community whose sole purpose is to use the occasion to promote their political agenda without any regard for the health and safety of our citizens. The WFD Board made the wise decision to deny these outside agitators the opportunity to use Wake Forest as a platform to spread hate and incite violence.”
Town officials said they will begin meeting early in 2020 to develop plans for scheduling future parades with the “goal of eliminating potential distractions by outside groups.”