NEW YORK — A weekend of St. Patrick's Day revelry and tensions over the exclusion of gays in some of the celebrations culminated Monday in New York, where the world's largest parade celebrating Irish heritage stepped off without the city's new mayor and Guinness beer amid a dispute over whether participants can carry pro-gay signs.
The parade of kilted Irish-Americans and bagpipers set off on a cold, gray morning. Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined Fifth Avenue, but the shivering, bundled up crowd was only about half as thick as in previous years.
De Blasio held the traditional St. Patrick's Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion with the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, but he was boycotting the parade because organizers said marchers were not allowed to carry gay-friendly signs or identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Police Commissioner William Bratton marched with a contingent of uniformed officers. Gay activists protesting the exclusion of official LGBT groups held a news conference before the march to say they didn't think the NYPD officers should participate in uniform.
"I know that there are thousands and thousands of gay people marching in this parade," said Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who greeted passing dignitaries in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral and was wearing a woolen Irish cap over his red cardinal's skull cap. "I know it. And I'm glad they are."
Dolan noted that he's not part of the parade leadership and therefore not responsible for who participates, but he said he supports the participation of individual gays. The cardinal declined to comment on the mayor's boycott.
"I'm just hoping this is a day of unity and radiance and joy, I hope, bringing us all together," Dolan said.