ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — As Anoka gears up for its annual Halloween parade, an online petition is attracting a lot of attention.
It’s supporting a gay youth group that’s not being allowed to march in this year’s parade.
The group is called Justin’s Gift, named after Justin Aaberg.
He was a student at Anoka High School who committed suicide.
His family says he couldn’t take the bullying he endured, over his sexual orientation.
The co-founders of Justin’s Gift felt like being a part of the parade would be a great opportunity for the community to show its support for gay and lesbian students.
Especially after all of the heat the Anoka School District took after several students including Justin, committed suicide.
Now some believe the group was not allowed to be in the parade because of what it stands for.
Justin’s Gift submitted an application to walk in the parade several days before the deadline.
Co-founder Tammy Aaberg, Justin’s mother, says the students planned to dress up as fairy tale characters and march with the group’s banner.
They received a letter stating there wasn’t room for them, the committee reached its limit on the number of parade walkers.
An upset parent not connected to the group started an online petition asking the committee to reconsider. More than a thousand people have signed it.
Tammy says she’s deeply hurt by the decision and the students are disappointed.
“It almost feels like they don’t care what happened to him,” she said. “They should have learned from it and learned from the kids who are here.”
We contacted Anoka’s Chamber of Commerce and they said the parade committee is only accessible by email. We sent an email and haven’t heard back yet.
It says on its website, for walking groups, there is limited space and it also states the committee reserves the right to deny any application.
Justin’s Gift is planning an alternative celebration the week before the parade for its members.