Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Amherst 7/4 Parade Déjà vu: Much Ado About Nothing

So about half our Committee (four) met with Amherst Town Manager Larry Shaffer this afternoon at 2:15 to discuss next year’s parade permit. And like last year, he opened the “discussion” with the declarative statement: “I’m going to sign your permit.”

If he was not such a gregarious guy, you’re tempted to say “Okay, thanks…I’m out-a-here!”

Like last year, the only indulgence requested was that we hear his mediation if problems occur. Once again we replied exactly the same: “Of course!”

For those of you just tuning in the Amherst July 4’th Parade, as a town function, last occurred during the 1976 Bicentennial, when my cousin Sheriff Bob Garvey lead it as Grand Marshall (his wife Jane Garvey was FAA chief on that awful 9/11 morning).

In 2002, in the turbulent wake of 9/11, Kevin Joy, 5’th generation Amherst townie and former FBI counter-terrorism agent, revived the parade via a volunteer private committee.

And the US Supreme Court unanimously declared that a private committee has the First Amendment right to mitigate off-topic messages: Insidious groups like the KKK, Skin Heads, NAMBLA; or even simply controversial issues like abortion, gun control, gay rights, etc.

The first year we had some whackos in Halloween masks (Presidents Nixon and Clinton) jump into the parade distributing vile literature. Another year an anti-war group wished to march with placards displaying the Bill or Rights (minus the Second Amendment, of course) and we allowed it.

Last year the Amherst Democratic Committee boycotted us (although Congressman John Over, State Senator Stan Rosenberg and Representative Ellen Story happily marched); and…alas, this year the Amherst League of Women Voters SUDDENLY (after five years) boycotted.

Strangely, since our debut in 2002, we have not officially denied anybody marching rights. The League of Women Voters sent a press release to the Town Manger dated June 23 saying they voted in May to boycott.

Hmmm—took you long enough to tell people about it; and no, they did not copy the Parade Committee.

And since we agreed LAST YEAR to discuss ANY Parade problems—especially inclusion—obviously the Town Manager did not take the League letter seriously, otherwise he would have called us.

Next year we are BIGGER than ever (the Town Manger agreed to march again). And, I’m thrilled to say, whackos need not apply.

1 comment:

Mary E.Carey said...

Useful history of the parade in recent years.