City of Raleigh denies group’s permit for annual Christmas parade

The City of Raleigh has denied a special use permit for the annual Raleigh Christmas Parade...
The City of Raleigh has denied a special use permit for the annual Raleigh Christmas Parade less than a year after a parade participant was killed by a runaway truck towing a float.(WTVD/CNN)
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 3:29 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 5:28 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - The city of Raleigh said Thursday it would not grant a special event permit application for the 2023 Raleigh Christmas Parade.

NBC affiliate station WRAL reports that the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, the permit application, has been notified by the city.

“The decision was made out of an abundance of caution for parade participants and spectators, as well as respect for Hailey Brooks’ family and friends,” the city wrote in a release. “We understand the disappointment, as this was not an easy decision for anyone.

“The Christmas Parade is a Raleigh tradition for kicking off the holiday season and an important way to recognize our small businesses.”

The city said its departments are working with partners “on a variety of events and activities that everyone can enjoy.”

Brooks was dancing on Nov. 19, 2022, with the CC & Company Dance Complex. She was struck and killed by an out-of-control pickup truck that lost its brakes. Brooks was 11 years old.

This year’s parade was scheduled for Nov. 18. It would have been the 79th Christmas parade in the city’s history.

On Thursday, the Brooks’ attorney, Jason Miller of Raleigh-based Miller Monroe and Plyler, said the family disagrees with the decision to cancel the parade.

“The Brooks family is disappointed that the City of Raleigh chose to cancel its 2023 Raleigh Christmas Parade rather than adopt basic safety measures to protect the community,” Miller wrote. “The City did not reach out to the family before making this decision.

“If consulted, the Brooks family would have urged the City to proceed with the Parade after implementing basic, common-sense safety protocols that should have been in place in 2022, such as those proposed in the Shine Like Hailey Parade Safety Act. It has been 10 months since Hailey Brooks was killed, and it is time for the City to honor her by enacting protections for the safety of this community – not by canceling the parade.”

The city said its departments are working with partners “on a variety of events and activities that everyone can enjoy.”

In the coming weeks, the city plans to share its plans.

“There [are] still a number of wonderful events that are going to be produced to celebrate the holiday season that folks can come downtown to enjoy,” Raleigh Assistant City Manager Evan Raleigh said.

Raleigh said the city had not consulted with the Brooks family about the decision.

“We just thought that the risks at this particular point outweighed the other considerations around moving forward,” Raleigh said.

Jennifer Martin, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, said the organization is “deeply saddened” by the decision. She pointed out that the city had permitted other parades, including the St. Patrick’s Day parade, since Brooks’ death.

Martin continued:

“There are thousands of local youth that participate in this annual event and when considering if we should hold a parade in 2023, we knew that we had to continue the event as our youth deserve every opportunity that we can provide for them. We also understand that for many children, the Raleigh Christmas Parade is the only way they will see Santa.

Our association has spent countless hours working to plan a parade that would be like one never seen before, one that would bring the community back together, provide a space for unity, one of healing, and one where the community will be provided a safe environment.

The Association stands ready, willing, and able to continue this tradition as soon as the City of Raleigh allows it to return.”

Baldwin said the decision was a difficult one and cited pending lawsuits and pending state legislation.

“It was done out of respect for Hailey Brooks’, who was tragically killed last year, and her family,” Baldwin said.

“With pending lawsuits and state legislation regarding parades, we felt this decision was best for the community. Our goal is to work with partners on events that celebrate the upcoming holidays, and ensure that we have appropriate rules and precautions in place for 2024, when we hope to continue this wonderful Raleigh tradition.”

Raleigh said each department that has a role in permitting the city’s Christmas parade was consulted in the decision, including the city attorney’s office.

“It was very much a decision made across the organization with input from a lot of places,” Raleigh said.

The Brooks family has sued the driver of the truck, Landen Glass, and the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association. The city of Raleigh is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Glass, who was just 20, had a history of traffic violations and had never driven in a parade.

The Brooks family believes there were standards not in place, and they have asked the courts and state legislature for stricter guidelines. Hailey’s father, Trey Brooks, asked state lawmakers in April for laws to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

The “Shine Like Hailey” bill also asks for vehicle safety inspections done at least seven days prior to the parade by law enforcement or a local fire department.

That bill passed the House in April, but has yet to pass the Senate.

“If we were to award the contract, but then, the legislation is passed and the criteria isn’t met, that could pose [as] a complication,” Baldwin said.