NEWBURYPORT – The Yankee Homecoming parade may have ended Sunday afternoon, but organizers were busy Monday defending their decision to allow a controversial candidate for U.S. Senate to take part in the festivities and apologizing for any offense it caused.
Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai of Cambridge is running against incumbent Elizabeth Warren and on Sunday brought his campaign bus to Newburyport featuring the slogan: “Only A Real Indian Can Defeat The Fake Indian.” The bus features a portrait of Ayyadurai, who is from India, next to a close-up of Warren wearing an American Indian headdress.
The slogan is a reference to President Donald Trump’s characterization of Warren as “Pocahontas” in speeches and Tweets. The attacks on Warren were in response to her contested claims of having American Indian heritage.
The appearance of the bus, which Ayyadurai claims was featured in other well-known events around the state, drew harsh reactions from many people watching the parade.
Ayyadurai, who is running as an independent and claims to have invented email, has made plenty of headlines since announcing his campaign. But most people in Newburyport likely never heard of him before the parade Sunday.
In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Ayyadurai said he first contacted Yankee Homecoming parade organizers three weeks before the event. But due to what he called an error on the Yankee Homecoming website, he didn’t hear back until Thursday. He then was told to send organizers a check for $500.
Asked repeatedly if Yankee Homecoming parade organizers asked him beforehand what parade watchers would be seeing, Ayyadurai became combative and declined to answer. Eventually, a campaign employee, who was also taking part in the phone call, said everyone knew about the bus, including Yankee Homecoming organizers.
Yankee Homecoming President Jason LaCroix acknowledged many people were upset with Ayyadurai’s bus and by midafternoon Monday, he issued an apology on behalf of organizers to those who found Ayyadurai’s message offensive.
“It has been brought to the attention of the Yankee Homecoming officers that there was a bus with a negative political message posted on it during Sunday’s YHC parade,” the parade organizers said in an emailed statement.
“YHC considers itself an all-inclusive organization who does not want to restrict free speech,” the statement said. “However, YHC certainly does not condone any type of negative message or advertisements at any of its events. YHC plans to revisit its policies to ensure that it continues to promote inclusiveness, honors free speech and ensures respect for all.”
Newburyport resident Tom O’Carroll said when he and others saw Ayyadurai’s bus, they were appalled and refused to accept cards being handed out by a campaign aide.
“I was disgusted by this. I was shocked. It might be the Trump effect, I don’t know,” O’Carroll said. “The whole parade was delightful and lighthearted, and then this abomination appears. Yikes.”
O’Carroll admitted that if Ayyadurai simply wanted to create a stir, he succeeded.
“He made an impression, I can see that,” O’Carroll said.
Another Newburyport resident, Lori Day, called the truck an affront to common decency.
“It demonstrates the normalization of Trumpism in politics, which is damaging civil discourse in this country,” Day said.
Day said she was bothered that the bus was allowed to take part, adding that while she wasn’t opposed to politics being part of future parades, Ayyadurai’s bus crossed the line.
“It’s not about politics, per se, but that was hate speech. Any decent person should have turned that down and said, ‘No, that’s not appropriate.’ It really was offensive and it really has no place there,” Day said.
For more on Shiva Ayyadurai: https://shiva4senate.com/
For more on Elizabeth Warren: https://elizabethwarren.com/
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.