Friday, July 6, 2007

July 4 Parade 2007: Let the fireworks begin

Amherst Town Manager

Dear Mr. Shaffer,

As a July 4’th Parade Committee founding member (since the event was resurrected in 2002) I feel obligated to respond to the 6/23/07 Amherst League Of Women Voters letter to you signed by their new President Carol Rothery.

Having marched this year with Congressman John Olver, State Representative Ellen Story, and Amherst Select Person Hwei-Ling Greeney, surely you must be aware that the Parade unfolded flawlessly (other than the inclement weather); and a good time was had by all—especially families.

As we have stated many times, the distinct advantages of having a private group run—and finance—the July 4’th Parade is twofold: (1) the event will actually happen! Please note there was NO parade from 1976 until 2002.

(2) Based on a 9-0 Supreme Court decision upholding the rights of a private organization to deny marchers who “impart a message the organizers do not wish to convey,” our committee can legally filter messages that everyone in Amherst would universally abhor, such as KKK racist rants or those NAMBLA sickos.

Controversial political issues worthy of sustained open discussion—abortion, gay rights, the Iraq War, etc—can easily be addressed in a multitude of ways in this opinionated town, without disrupting the narrow focus of a July 4’th Parade CELEBRATION that only happens once a year and lasts just under an hour.

Since this last-minute (non) issue created by the League received extensive media attention—and especially since Ms. Rothery blatantly suggests you negate future Parade permits—we request a quick turnaround for our 2008 permit. That will ensure participants and spectators know Amherst will continue to have a July 4’th Parade friends and families can take pride in.

We would be happy to meet and discuss this further if you think there is anything new to be said. Thank you for attending this year’s Parade, and we sincerely hope you—and the multitudes of loyal local residents—can attend next year.

Larry Kelley
Amherst July 4’th Parade Committee (but speaking strictly as an individual)

Cc: Amherst Select board, Attorney Michael Serduck, Amherst July 4’th Parade Committee, League of Women Voters of Amherst,
UPDATE: (11:00 am) Since a few folks have now asked, yes, I did choose the photo of a military missile carrier to send a subliminal message (darn, I thought I was being subtle)


Chris Hoffmann said...

And the presence of the missile gave me pause as well. I very much support your group's right to run the parade since no one else wants to do it and you folks do a very good job of it.

But military hardware is a bit different than having veterans marching in terms of an implicit endorsement for militarism (and even more implicitly the current war). Again, I don't think that means you shouldn't have a permit for next year, but I'm more sympathetic toward those who decided to boycott this year.

I'm curious. I can understand not allowing explicit protests for or against the Iraq war. But if a group had wanted a generic celebration of pacifism or non-violent protest in US history, would that have been likely to be allowed?

And on a related note -- what the heck was up with that guy carrying the Edvard Munch painting right behind our elected officials? Was that some sort of protest??

LarryK4 said...

Well since the exceedingly new President of the League of Women Voters (a group where you are listed as “website liaison”) cited the American Revolution as justification for their boycott of the Amherst July 4’th Parade, even Carol Rothery would probably admit that military hardware has a place in a Parade honoring the battle for our independence.

And we’ve come a long way from black powder flintlocks.

Sure, if some group wanted a “generic celebration of pacifism or non-violent protest in US history”--like the civil rights movement for instance--we would have no problem letting them march

Again let me point out: this year we did not deny a single request from anybody to march.

That goof with Munch’s “The scream” painting was Ernest Urvater, who last year crashed the parade alongside Mary Wentworth carrying some silly placard about a “gulag”.

He was also the guy who took out a parade permit in the name of ACTV last July 5’th (when he was still on their Board of Directors) trying to steal away the day from us and as noted in a previous blog response from ACTV Production Manager Sean Kinlin he did not have the permission of the executive board to do such a stupid thing.

So yeah, I guess you could classify it as some sort of “protest.” Kinda like Rob Kusner wearing a President Bush parody T-shirt to Amherst Town Meeting.

Chris Hoffmann said...

Yes I am indeed LWV website liaison, but I'm not involved in editorial decisions. Or even aware of them beforehand! I respect their right to boycott the parade because of their beliefs and I can understand what their point is, but I can't say I really agree with them in this case.

Good point about whether there's really any difference between allowing flintlocks and rocket launchers. My gut reaction "of course there is", doesn't hold up well to deeper reflection.

I suspected the guy carrying "The Scream" was a parade crasher; glad to know I'm right.

Thanks for your work on this parade, Larry. We disagree about a lots of things, but I appreciate your efforts to do what you think will make Amherst a better place.