Cocoa Beach Christmas Boat Parade.

The normally fun loving and community gathering of the Cocoa Beach Christmas Boat Parade which was held on December 11, 2021, took a bizarre turn when some boats showed up with political messages on them.

In the above video of the parade, two boats can be seen with messages that, in our opinion, are far outside the spirit of the holiday and the event.

First, at 6:18 of the video is a boat with a flag reading “F*** JOE BIDEN.” The flag has the “C” and the “K” with the “U” being a graphic of a middle finger.

Secondly, at 20:50, there is a flag on a boat that reads “F*** BIDEN”

Two other boats have messages that people objected to.

The first is seen at 3:20 and has the letters in lights of “FJB.” The second boat, seen at 13:42 has a flag which reads “Let’s Go Brandon.”

People reached out to the Cocoa Beach City Hall to complain as they were not amused.

Political messaging has no place in a Christmas parade,” Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik said.

“We have enough to fight amongst each other about. We don’t need to ruin Christmas over it,” Malik said.

(For the record, we have seen boats in the parade previously which had political messages such as “Vote for John Doe.” It is indisputable that political messages have been in the boat parade before this year.)

We are going to be honest and say that we think the first two boats we mentioned are way out of line for this type of event. We don’t think that parents need to have their young children turn to them and ask “Mommy, what does ‘f*** Joe Biden’ mean?”

The second pair of boats – the “FJB” boat and the “Let’s Go Brandon” boat don’t raise as much concern for us.

The Cocoa Beach Rotary Club issued a letter saying that in the future, the organization will be looking at ways to prevent boats with such messages in the parade.

Cocoa Beach Vice-Mayor Skip Williams watched the boat parade. In replies to emails he received from constituents about the parade, he said the December event has “always been a family friendly event for all and I feel is not the place for politically disparaging displays.”

We think Williams is spot on.

This is an extension of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

“I have already questioned whether we can regulate and enforce ways to keep this type of thing from reoccurring in Cocoa Beach. God forbid the issue gets tied up in a 1st Amendment legal battle and we have to cancel the parade to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Williams said in the emails.

The City Attorney says the boats can be banned from the parade because the event is sponsored by a private entity and not the City of Cocoa Beach.

Addressing the controversy, City Attorney Becky Vose forwarded Malik an analysis of a landmark 1995 Supreme Court decision regarding restriction of parade messaging.

In that decision, the judges unanimously ruled that the organizers of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade had the right to reject the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston from participating.

“The issue in this case is whether Massachusetts may require private citizens who organize a parade to include among the marchers a group imparting a message the organizers do not wish to convey. We hold that such a mandate violates the First Amendment,” the Supreme Court said in its opinion.

The case to which Vose refers is Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U.S. 557 (1995).

The key point in the case is that First Amendment restrictions apply to government actions, not the actions of private citizens or groups.

Think of it this way: the government cannot tell you that you can’t fly a “F*** Joe Biden” flag on your property and they can’t force to fly such a flag either. However, you, on your property, have the right and ability to decide whether you want to fly that flag or not, and furthermore, you have the right on your property to not allow anyone else to bring a flag, wear a tee-shirt, etc., on your property with that message or a contrary message.

However, we think there is another issue – one that Mayor Malik hits upon:

“If somebody wants to fly their boat flag down the canal with whatever they want on the back of it, have at it,” Malik said.

Malik seems to be indicating that a boat could be transiting the area with “whatever they want on the back of it” while the parade is going on and that would be fine. The boat just wouldn’t be allowed in the parade.

In the Supreme Court case, the issue was whether the City of Boston could force the organizers of a parade to allow messages in the parade with which the private organizing group disagreed. Part of the argument was that the parade was taking part on the streets of Boston.

In other words, part of the argument was that it wasn’t just the private group organizing the parade, but the City of Boston which allowed the group on public property. Subsequent court cases have said that governments renting out public spaces to private groups does not mean the government can control the message the group wishes to convey. While this sounds like a rehash of the Hurley case, it is not. Who controls the venue in some ways matter.

We aren’t sure, but we don’t think the City of Cocoa Beach owns or controls the navigable waterway where the parade is held.

The Coast Guard is the controlling authority there.

So while the parade organizers may say “we don’t want you in the middle of our parade,” the Coast Guard controls whether boats with messages on them can transit the area.

It’s messy, and frankly, it shouldn’t be.

We get it. There are a lot of frustrated people in this country on both sides of the political spectrum. People who shouted to the heavens to “F*** Trump” now want people who say “Let’s Go Brandon!” to be hung in the public square.

There are time and places for everything – even political discussions with profane language.

We just don’t think that a Christmas parade – whether on water or on land – is the appropriate place for that type of language.

Christmas is a magical time of year. Lights, Santa, trees, a celebration of a Savior’s birth all seemed to be ripped apart but division and hatred.

While we have seen comments on this on how the boats reflect the hatred and inappropriateness from the political right, we want to show what others were posting:

The dccollegdemocrats were hawking for discussing Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan:

(click for larger image in new tab)

“Catholics for Choice” wants Mary to have the “right” to have aborted Christ. (Oh the irony there is thick:)

NARAL went the same “abortion route:”

We can go on and on and on.

The bottom line is once again, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

In the case of the Cocoa Beach Boat Parade, ask yourself whether you’d prefer to talk about how cool the boats were and how pretty they were, or would you rather have to explain to a 6 year old what “F*** JOE BIDEN” means?

Frankly, we can do better.

2 Responses to “Cocoa Beach Christmas Boat Parade.”

  1. Percy Veer says:

    I agreed with your comments that a Christmas boat parade is probably not the right peace to air political messages. I watched the parade from a boat and only noticed the one FJB sign after a bunch of folks from a condo started up a lets go Brandon chant that seemed to resonate down the row of condo’s. I had to smile and accept that some folks have less of a filter than I do. The boat parade was great and seemed bigger than previous years, we particularly like the guy with the hot air ballon blower that shoots flames up into the air. I do sympathize with the folks who were offended and we should try to do better going forward, it is a shame that everything has become so politicized but I think it was still a great boat parade and the vast majority of boats were out there celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.

  2. Lola says:

    If the Americans and NAZIs were able to call a truce from killing each other on Christmas Eve during the Battle of the Bulge, it seems Democrats and Republicans could take a break as well.