Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Meet the Press January 11,2006

Harwich Officials Will Sign A Proclamation Of Respect Monday

by William F. Galvin

HARWICH --- A ceremony will be held on the Martin Luther King Day holiday declaring Harwich as a “No Place For Hate” community. The board of selectmen Monday night approved a proclamation to be read at an event scheduled for noon at town hall.

The event will be the culmination of efforts in the community to demonstrate Harwich is a haven of respect and its inhabitants will not tolerate subtle or overt racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and ethnic bigotry.

This movement hit the ground running when a resident awoke one weekend in late November to see a red swastika painted on a roadway sign along Route 39 in Harwich Center .

“I wonder what this says about the supposedly quiet place we live in. I wonder if it is time to revisit the subject of tolerance as a community value. I wonder if this was the work of adults,” resident Susan Leven said at the time.

The defacing of the sign brought the community together to face issues of intolerance and find ways of speaking out against such actions. A No Place For Hate Harwich committee was formed and working with a diverse population of the community, crafted a Proclamation of Respect which selectmen approved on a vote Monday night. The proclamation will be officially signed in a ceremony specifically chosen to take place on Martin Luther King Day at town hall.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Ed McManus made a presentation to selectmen Monday night, explaining the proclamation was crafted by Rev. Terry Newberry, John Bangert, Chuck Micciche, Cathy Comeau, Police Chief William Mason and McManus. The initial plan was to hold a ceremony at the community center on Monday.

But Selectman Robin Wilkins, who initially recommended an event be held on the King holiday, urged holding the ceremony on the steps of town hall, citing the location as symbolically more significant.

Wilkins said in his associations with the assassinations of President Kennedy and King, he had a vision of noontime and recommended the gathering take place at that time, instead of the 10 a.m. scheduling of events at the community center.

“Snow or rain we’ll be there,” Wilkins said. “The whole idea of being outside is critical to this proclamation.”

The Proclamation of Respect states in part: “We recognizes issues of diversity and encourage our residents to foster a spirit of understanding and respect for all peoples. The safety, well-being and respect for all of our citizens are essential in our growing community. We invite full participation in our community affairs and respect, support, and encourage people of every race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, age and physical and mental ability to join with us in building a community of respect.”

The Anti-Defamation League and the Massachusetts Municipal Association have joined together in promoting the No Place For Hate Program in communities across the commonwealth. Approximately 60 communities have issued proclamations declaring they are active in the program.

John Bangert, who is a member of the group sponsoring the effort, told selectmen Monday night the Anti-Defamation League has notified him they are pleased to have Harwich be part of the program. Bangert said there are five new communities committing to the program this year, including Belmont , Boxford, Harwich, Watertown and Worcester .

He praised the decision by town officials to hold the proclamation ceremony on Martin Luther King Day. He recited a quote from Coretta Scott King that “Martin Luther King Day is not a day off, it’s a day on.”

Selectman Peter Piekarski said he was not going to support the motion to approve the proclamation. He objected to the Anti-Defamation League as a political action group set up for no other purpose than to promote itself. Piekarski said neither the town of Harwich nor any other government should be interacting with the ADL.

“I would support a program run by the town of Harwich , local ministers or local volunteers,” Piekarski said. “I’m not racist or discriminatory. It’s wrong for town government to interact with a political action entity. The only reason why I’m not supporting it is the Anti-Defamation League.”

Selectman Donald Howell said Piekarski is “one of the finest, most decent people” he has sat next to on the board of selectmen and he does not read anything more into his statement than what was said.

“If we believe in this proclamation we should respect his own conscience for making this decision,” Wilkins said.

Gail Bangert said she has worked closely with the volunteers in this effort and she assured Piekarski they would not “think badly” of the position he has taken.

Piekarski said he had done research on other programs with the intention of presenting an alternative approach, but each of those programs falls under political action groups.

Residents and town officials will gather at town hall at noon on Monday to participate in the No Place For Hate proclamation signing ceremony. There will be a larger version of the proclamation available for signature by residents.


No hate' event set for Monday
Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The board of selectmen Monday adopted a "proclamation of respect," which will be read on the steps of town hall at noon Monday, Jan. 16, Martin Luther King Day.
The proclamation, prepared by the Rev. Terry Newberry, John Bangert, Chuck Micciche, selectmen chairman Ed McManus, Cathy Comeau, and Police Chief Bill Mason, states that Harwich recognizes diversity and declares itself a "community of respect for all people," as part of the Anti-Defamation's League's No Place for Hate program. The recent defacing of a bike path sign with a swastika prompted the move.
The proclamation was approved by a vote of 3-1, with Selectman Peter Piekarski opposing. He said the Anti-Defamation League is a controversial political action committee to which the town should not align itself. He said he would have supported a home-grown program.

No comments: