City leaders are saying they believe they can address police concerns about the popular Ocean Springs Mardi Gras night parade and expect it to roll as planned.
The Ocean Springs Carnival Association night parade is scheduled for the Friday before Fat Tuesday — Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.
At Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Deputy Police Chief Derek Hoppner surprised aldermen by asking them to cancel the night parade in order to protect police officers. He handed the board a memo before the meeting. It was not signed by Police Chief Mark Dunston, who was out of town at the time.
Dunston, returning from a trip on Wednesday, called a press conference for 10 a.m. Thursday and is expected to recommend the city move forward with the parade. That’s what several aldermen and Mayor Connie Moran have said they want.
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Officers have been assaulted at that parade for the past three years and no one cares.
Deputy Police Chief Derek Hoppner
However, Dunston is expected to reiterate issues the Police Department is concerned with, including enforcing laws, when he speaks with the media.
Hoppner told the board on Tuesday that officers have been assaulted at the parade for the past three years “and no one cares.”
He talked of officers being hit in the head with flying objects and being kicked. Hoppner said the parade crowd is rowdy, alcohol is usually flowing, there is underage drinking and there are fights to break up.
The board responded by defending the well-attended parade, but saying the city needs to find a way to make it safer for everyone, even if that means adding barricades and officers.
This will also be the first year the parade rolls through the newly declared Arts and Entertainment District, where clear plastic go cups of alcohol are allowed outside the bars. No glass containers are allowed on the streets, however.
The board did not approve the special events permit for the parade on Tuesday, but said it would take up the issue at a future meeting.