Minnesota Halloween Parade Rejects Youth Group Combating Anti-Gay Bullying
- Campaign on Change.org calls on Anoka Halloween Festival Committee to allow Justin’s Gift, a local anti-bullying youth group, to march in the October 27 parade;
- Committee refuses to answer questions about bias in the decision;
- Town made national headlines after a number of suicide deaths by Anoka youth who were gay or perceived to be gay; School district making headlines this week for appointing a representative from a “hate group” to oversee an anti-bullying program
ANOKA, MN – Thousands of people from across the country have joined a campaign on Change.org calling on the Anoka Halloween Festival Committee to allow Justin’s Gift, an anti-bullying youth group started in memory of bullied teen Justin Aaberg, to march in their popular parade on October 27.
Rebecca Krone, an Anoka mom who works with special needs youth, is leading the campaign on Change.org after the Anoka Halloween Festival Committee refused to answer community questions regarding its decision to deny Justin’s Gift members a spot in the parade. Anoka, MN, made national headlines after a number of suicide deaths by Anoka youth who were gay or perceived to be gay. Justin’s Gift was started in memory of Justin Aaberg, one of the bullied youth who committed suicide.
“The parade committee had a great opportunity to send a welcoming message by letting Justin’s Gift walk in the parade,” said Krone. “I have three kids who are growing up right here in Anoka and I want them -- and all of their friends and peers -- to feel safe and welcomed in their own community. Our kids should never be afraid to be who they are. Our community needs to heal and this would have been a great start.”
This week, Bryan Lindquist, a prominent member of the Parents Action League -- a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- was named a member of the district's new Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Task Force by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board.
Each new signature on Krone’s petition is sent via email to members of the Anoka Halloween Festival Committee, including Anoka Halloween Board President Jeremy McFarland. McFarland has refused to answer questions from reporters about the group’s criteria for selecting participants and will not address questions about bias in the committee’s decision.
"When we received the decision, we didn’t want to think it was made because of bias,” said Jefferson Fietek, co-founder of anti-bullying youth group Justin’s Gift. “However, based on the committee's unwillingness to answer community questions and the inconsistencies in the few responses they have given, we can’t help but question their motives. By marching in the parade, Justin’s Gift would have sent a positive and empowering message to all Anoka’s young people. We regret that in all of this, our youth are the ones who are hurt.”
“More than 15,000 petitions were started on Change.org this past month, but Rebecca’s campaign was definitely one of the fastest-growing,” said Rachel LaBruyere, Deputy Campaign Director at Change.org. “It’s clear the story of Anoka’s youth is resonating with people.”
Journalists interested in setting up an interview should use the contact details at the top of the page.
Live signature totals from Rebecca Krone’s campaign:
Minneapolis Star Tribune coverage of the campaign:
Journalists interested in contacting the Anoka Halloween President should try:
(763) 300 6342
For more information on Change.org, please visit:
Change.org is the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change — growing by nearly two million new members a month, and empowering millions of people to start, join, and win campaigns for social change in their community, city and country.
For more information on Justin’s Gift, please visit:
Justin’s Gift works with LGBTQ youth and their friends to create safe environments where young people can be themselves in a bully-free zone, achieve self-confidence and be proud of who they are.