Monday, July 2, 2007

Take my toys and go home!

The spoilsports are at it again. This time it’s the Amherst League of Women Voters who wishes to rain on our Parade.

They sent a letter to the Town Manager last week (knowing it would be picked up by the media) saying they are boycotting the July 4’th Parade because we, as a private entity, were not allowing everything and anything to march.

Kevin Joy and I met with them three months ago in my office and both Kevin and I really thought we had come to terms. They were not aware, for instance, that a public parade sponsored by the town (and I really worry about the 250’th Anniversary Parade two years from now) would have to allow anything and everything protected by the First Amendment.

Yes we all know you can’t yell “terrorist attack” in a crowded movie theatre. But there are some amazing things you can do.

For instance the F-word. Okay yeah, I use that one on occasion but NEVER in public. Or the famous, Only In Amherst, use of the C-word (for female genitals) or the N-word…that is, apparently, okay for rappers to use but not white guys. I would ban anybody from using it.

The League of Women Voters expressed concerned that our Parade Committee has no “elected” town officials. Well last time I looked, Kevin Joy and Larry Kelley are elected Town Meeting members and as such we even have Foreign Policy experience.

And last March 28’ I was also ELECTED to the powerful Amherst Redevelopment authority (after serving over ten years as the Governor’s appointee).

Interestingly at this point, only days from the Parade, we have not denied ANYBODY marching rights. Although yes, because this event is a Politics Free Zone, if someone wanted to march with an anti-Iraq war sign they would be denied.

But if someone wanted to march with a PRO-Iraq war sign, they too would be denied.

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

Monday morning update: So naturally, the Gazette puts this trumped up deja vu controversy on the Front Page. I just found this exchange from last year:

In a message to Amherst listserve dated 7/65/06 1:24:02 PM, Amherst AC writes:

For those who have not followed this story this year, and I’m assuming that is this entire listserve, let me run it down chronologically: Without coming before the Parade committee to even ask what is allowed this year, the Democratic Town Committee sent a letter to the Amherst Bulletin (without sending it to the Parade Committee) saying they refused to march in the parade this year because they could not push their anti Iraq war policy.

The Gazette picked up the issue before the Bulletin went to press and then the Springfield Republican followed up with a Page One story also covered by Ch. 40 TV.
(That reminds me, I have to send the Democratic Town Committee a ‘Thank You’ note for the thousand$ in free publicity).

The parade went off perfectly. The protestors got their headlines and plenty of visibility from the sidelines. The parade committee maintained the integrity of the line of march. As far as I’m concerned, EVERYBODY won.

Then I’m forwarded an email circulated to the Democratic Town Committee suggesting they flood the Select board and Town Manager with critical comments about the parade, before we can get another permit.

So I call the Town Managers office early on July 5’th and I’m told another group (ACTV) has reserved 7/4/07 for a parade, and the town only allows one per day along any given route.

Kevin Joy and I go to Town Hall (Wednesday) and while standing there filling out the form Charlie Scherpa walks in and immediately signs it. So we hand in our completed form (something ACTV has not yet done).

The Town Manager requests a meeting for the next day (Thursday) to discuss the permit. Meeting could not have gone any better as far as we were concerned. He ran down his service background (Army, early 1970’s) as well as his family and then quickly said, “I’m going to sign your permit.”

A few hours later we get a waffling email. I respond immediately reminding him of what took place in the meeting. Again Mr. Shaffer says he will sign the permit. I assume he’s a stand up guy, so I assume the permit is now signed.

But, last year a mysterious addition appeared in the Parade Permit process saying you need to go before the Select board to get permission for a “street closing.”

So in the very near future we will go before the Select board to request the street closing. And yes, if they attempt a quid pro quo—street closing for allowing all signs—then we will refuse, they will reject our permit, and we will go to Superior Court.

Only in Amherst (Maybe I’ll start a BLOG)

In a message dated 7/6/06 11:38:52 AM, writes:

Larry, Kevin and Attorney Serduck,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me relative to the Parade Permit for July 4, 2007. At the meeting, I told you that it was my intent to sign the permit. I intend to do that in the short term. However, what remains important to me and what I will continue to pursue with you, is how the parade might serve as a means to bring us together as a community to support traditional American values espoused by the Independence Day celebration (Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights). To the degree that the Parade continues to be a vehicle that celebrates and educates our community on traditional values, then you will have my support. However, I will continue to respectfully request that those who wish to espouse a position that may run counter to the views of the parade sponsors be allowed to participate. Let’s continue to discuss how that might happen.


Larry Shaffer

In a message dated 7/6/06 12:42:20 PM, Amherst AC writes:

Hey Larry,

Thank you for taking the time so early in your tenure to consider what some may deem a frivolous issue. However, as someone who loves written communication, it always makes me nervous when “however” appears more than once in a short dispatch.

My impression of our meeting was that you would sign the permit, PERIOD: No quid pro quo. I made it perfectly clear that the Parade Committee would not allow Mary Wentworth to march with blatant anti-Iraq war signs, just as we would not allow the KKK to march with racist signs.

We already allow “those who wish to espouse a position that may run counter to the views of the parade sponsors to participate”. Last time I looked, not a single member of the July 4’th Parade Committee was a member or supporter of SAGE, a peace activist group that disparages the current Commander in Chief, at a time when our nation is at war. Yet they have marched all five years, with placards celebrating the Bill or Rights (well, except for the 2'nd Amendment).

We are, of course, always open to discussion about who may participate in the parade. And if their message “celebrates and educates our community on traditional values”, we will most assuredly not have a problem,

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

In a message dated 7/6/06 1:13:49 PM, writes:


Thank you for your note. I shall sign the permit. But in conjunction with that assurance, I would like a commitment that the parade be as inclusive as possible because of your regard for the principles that are celebrated on July 4th. As Lincoln said, I wish to appeal to your better angels.

I would very much encourage everyone to look towards a resolution that brings the community together rather than an outcome that divides us.

I know I can count on your understanding and cooperation.


In a message dated 7/6/06 4:24:02 PM, Amherst AC writes:

Hey Larry,

Thank you!

Rest assured that (although speaking for myself) our utmost concern is to bring together the community for a brief shining moment to celebrate the principles that created this, somewhat flawed, but most wondrous experiment in democracy.

Lincoln also said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”


New to the post, Shaffer to tackle parade concerns

AMHERST - This year's Fourth of July parade went off without a hitch, but some parties remain concerned over the private organizers' banning of would-be marchers with anti-war messages.

Now, Laurence Shaffer, the new town manager, has been drawn into the still-simmering debate.

'I need to be able to add to the value of the community by bringing disparate groups together,' Shaffer said Thursday.

By his third day on the job, Shaffer, the former town administrator in Vernon, Conn., had already heard from critics of the parade objecting to the limitations imposed by the private organizers.

Last year, the Select Board discussed whether the town could take over the parade or refuse to allow municipal employees to march in it as representatives of the town, but nothing came of the discussions.

Shaffer has now weighed in, after meeting with parade organizer Larry Kelley.

The new town manager said he will sign the permit for next year's parade, but he wants to meet with the organizers again to discuss making the parade more inclusive.

'To the degree that the parade is divisive in the community, it is counterproductive and inconsistent with everyone's goals of celebrating traditional American values,' Shaffer said.

Kelley, meanwhile, insists that the parade organizers will not allow protesters to march with 'blatant anti-war signs, just as we would not allow the KKK to march with racist signs.'

Shaffer said he expects the Select Board 'will take an interest' in the topic, 'and they will want to understand what opportunities might exist to push that agenda along, presumably.'

Mary Carey can be reached at
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View all comments (1)

Larry Kelley [ Posted on: Friday - July 07, 2006 at 01:02 PM]
Actually, the new Town Manager met with original refounder of the parade, Kevin Joy and our attorney Michael Serduck as well. And in that meeting (Thursday morning) very clearly said he would sign our Parade permit without any stipulations (other than to give "consideration" to all groups, something we always do). My comment about not allowing KKK signs as well as anti war signs is not to compare peace activists with the KKK. It should also be noted that we would not allow PRO Iraq war signs either. Can't we all just get along for one holiday a year?

In a message dated 7/7/06 1:59:17 PM, writes:

Larry --

I like the idea of an unrestricted parade. [See
letter to Nick Grabbe below.]

Of course it would have to be a different parade on
a different day than the 4th -- since so many groups
would drop out after they saw who I would invite.

-- Terry F.


To the Editor,

I am intrigued by the proposal being discussed for
another parade, in which no one would be excluded.
In addition to the fire engines from Holyoke, and
the bagpipers from Pittsfield, we would have the Ku
Klux Klan from New Bedford, The Aryan Nations from
Boston, the Nazi Party from Lowell, and the Outlaws
Motorcycle Gang from Worcester.
I'm serious. I'm not being "tongue in cheek" this
time, as I often am in my letters.
Amherst is a town which pays a lot of lip service
to the First Amendment, but which really despises
it. If we could actually welcome people with
different views -- no matter if they were
distasteful or offensive -- we would be a shining
light for the rest of the nation.

Terry Franklin

In a message dated 7/7/06 2:19:28 PM, Amherst AC writes:

Hey Terry,

Yeah, I think you would have trouble getting police, fire, Vets, and the Dakin Animal Shelter with that list. I mentioned to the ACTV guy who wants to steal our 7/4 Parade, that very notion: unrestricted signs could interest the KKK (who would probably love to march in the Peoples Republic of Amherst)


David Farnham said...


I have always marched in the July 4th parade, as the Towns Elector to the Oliver Smith Charities, this parade has been inclusive and a wonderful celebration.My wife is recovering from major surgery so this year we will be out of town, and I will not be in attendence. March on!

David Farnham

Sean said...

I just want to clarify something for the readers (I'm sure you already know this, Larry). The action taken last July 5 to register for a parade permit for July 4 this year was done by a single board member of ACTV acting on his own. It wasn't an action officially undertaken by ACTV, and none of the other board members knew about it in advance.

Hope the weather holds up for the parade tomorrow!

-Sean Kinlin