Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Procession In Question

A traditional procession in honor of a Latino religious icon is drawing police concern because of its increasing popularity.

Police Chief Edward Santiago told the City Council Monday that proposed procession in honor of the patron saint of the Americas, the Virgin of Guadalupe, could disrupt both NJ Transit bus traffic as well as the motoring public.

The request is to allow a procession on Sunday, Dec.10 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and on Monday, Dec. 11 from 11 p.m. to midnight.

Santiago asked the City Council to limit the procession to sidewalks, saying the city did not have the personnel to deal with traffic control along the proposed procession route.

Santiago said just as Good Friday Latino processions have increased, so have the Virgin of Guadalupe processions in December.

He suggested that the celebrants meet at some point, “like a festival,” and also suggested the marchers should use the sidewalk.

The city’s burgeoning Latino populations have introduced customs to the city that were not known before.

The Virgin of Guadalupe celebration dates back to an event in 1531 in which a man named Juan Diego received a visitation of the dark-skinned Virgin and convinced church officials of it by showing his cloak imprinted with the image of the Virgin.

Council members split over whether the request was out of line or just reflective of a new situation in the city.

Councilman Harold Gibson voiced concern about a large number of people on the sidewalk.

“I’m looking at the total safety and security of people,” he said.

“This is something they have been doing for years,” said Councilman Don Davis, who suggested a shortened version of the celebration.

Councilwoman Linda Carter said her concern was over groups who were trying to do the same thing in the city.

Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said, “My feeling is, either way you go, you’re going to have a problem.”

The matter will be up for a vote tonight (Wednesday, Dec. 6) at the regular City Council meeting, 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice Paglia


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