Monday, January 23, 2006

Meet the Press January 19, 2006

No Place for Hate
Harwich Oracle Editorial
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Harwich took an important step this week when it formally adopted the Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate position, joining more than 50 other Massachusetts towns that already have done so. Every resident and elected official ought to point with pride to the proclamation that was read on the steps of town hall Monday.

That some would oppose the action is baffling. Selectman Peter Piekarski's criticism of the ADL is widely known; he made public his opinion of the league some weeks ago. In voting against the No Hate program, he predicted some would call him a racist or a bigot. We won't do that, but we will call him misguided, or perhaps just misinformed.
We don't consider the ADL a "controversial" political action group, as the selectman calls it. It's a human rights advocacy organization.

The league was founded in 1913 "to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people." Its doctrine says, and its actions during the past 96 years illustrate, that its intent is to secure justice and fair treatment for all citizens.
That's controversial?
It's unfortunate that it took the defacing of a road sign, with a swastika, to prompt the town's affiliation with the ADL's No Hate campaign. But reaction is better than no action.

For readers who didn't brave Monday's cold temperatures to participate in the town hall event, here's the position statement Harwich adopted on your behalf:

Whereas:We recognize the diversity and issues of diversity in our community, and encourage our residents to foster a spirit of understanding and respect for all peoples, and

Whereas:The safety, well-being and respect for all our citizens is essential in our growing community, and

Whereas:We invite full participation in all 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.

(Those who may wish to read and sign this may do so in the lobby of Town Hall, and at the Harwich Community Center lobby.)

Proclaiming respect in Harwich
By Douglas Karlson/
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It’s official. There’s no place for hate in Harwich.

A few dozen town residents braved frigid temperatures Monday to participate in a public ceremony on the steps of town hall, where a proclamation was read designating Harwich a "community of respect for all people."
"We must be the first responders to hate," said John Bangert, who has taken the lead in organizing the "No Place for Hate" movement in Harwich. The movement gained momentum last fall after a swastika was painted on a road sign near the bike path

During his remarks on the legal holiday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Bangert recalled Captain Jonathan Walker, a Harwich native who in 1844 helped fugitive slaves in Florida. He was imprisoned and branded on the hand with the initials "S.S." for slave stealer. As the "man with the branded hand," he gained national fame as a champion of freedom.

Monuments to Walker have been erected in Michigan and Wisconsin, but despite a commemorative plaque in the garden at Brooks Park, Harwich has not done enough to memorialize its native son and vocally embrace his cause of freedom, implied Bangert.

But the message was loud and clear Monday. Chairman of the board of selectmen Ed McManus read the proclamation, and invited others to add comments, which were kept brief owing to the piercing cold.
"Do not let Martin Luther King’s dream die," said the Rev. Evelyn Lavelli of Pilgrim Church.
Youth chaplain Lynn Snow said the Harwich Clergy Association voted last week to endorse the proclamation. She quoted Mother Theresa. "We can do no great things, only small things with great kindness."
A number of Harwich High School students turned out. Jessica Comeau spoke for them. "We think this is a really, really good idea," she said.

Andrew Crosby, a junior at Harwich High, said he attended "because I feel for Martin Luther King. He died before he saw [his dream realized]. I came here to support the town." "It’s a starting point," said Police Chief William Mason, who was one of the first to sign the proclamation. "It’s not just the idea we are for one day sitting out there saying hate and violence are inappropriate ... it has to be a way of thinking. It has to be a mindset as opposed to a one-day event."
"I think it’s good for the town," observed Ray Gottwald, Harwich’s representative to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates after the event. "We have a very diverse town, actually one of the most diverse on the Cape, and I think it sends the message that discrimination will not be tolerated."

No Place for Hate is a program developed by the Anti-Defamation League. It is intended to fight hate and bigotry. According to literature from the league, to become certified as an official No Place for Hate municipality, a town must form a committee, sign the official proclamation, and make a public statement that the town will actively "promote respect while taking a stand against bigotry, prejudice and hate of any kind." The town must then complete at least three activities that promote the ideals of the program, such as hate-crime training for police and essay contests in school.

Residents Turn Out To Sign Proclamation Of Respect

by William F. Galvin

HARWICH --- Approximately 60 people withstood the bone-chilling temperatures on Martin Luther King Day Monday to participate in the No Place For Hate Harwich Proclamation of Respect signing by selectmen and local residents.

“I knew we’d always overcome,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Ed McManus said of efforts to, as the proclamation states, “foster a spirit of understanding and respect for all peoples.”
No Place For Hate signing

Resident Ed Donovan pens his name to the Proclamation of Respect outside Town Hall on Monday as residents wait in freezing temperatures to endorse the No Place For Hate Harwich proclamation.
People in town knew it was something they had to do to demonstrate that bias and bigotry are not the moving force in this community, but rather that respect is the driving force, McManus said. This day and adoption of the proclamation are a first step in that direction, the selectman said.

Efforts have been underway for nearly two months to have Harwich declared a No Place For Hate community through a program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and Massachusetts Municipal Association, joining approximately 60 municipalities in the commonwealth.

The Harwich project was born of an act of hatred and anti-Semitism and its overt display in the form of a swastika painted on a roadway sign on Route 39 in Harwich Center in late November.

Police Chief William Mason said on Monday his department has not found the culprit of the act and the best information they have received is it was an act involving kids, but no particular name was attached to that information.

“We’re lucky there have been no replications,” Mason said.

He also called Monday’s ceremony a good first step, saying Harwich is not a hateful community, but people do have to examine their philosophy of dealing with each other and it is a good idea to come together and talk.

“Hurricane Katrina opened our eyes to the facts that we must be our own ‘first responder’ to racism and hate,” John Bangert, coordinator of the event said. “We saw a failing government response to its people.”

Bangert reached deep into the town’s history to recognized Captain Jonathan Walker on this holiday for his efforts to combat slavery from the 1840 to 1870s. There are monuments to Walker in Wisconsin and Michigan and only a little plaque in front of Brooks Academy Museum , Bangert said.

Captain Walker was branded with “SS” on his hand, which stood for slave stealer. Bangert said the branding was understood in the Walker family as representing “slave savior.”

“I know of no language adequate to express my feeling of abhorrence of a government like this professing republican democracy and Christianity, while practicing such barefaced, cold heart villainy upon the people at the people’s expense from year to year, asking advantage of the weak and inoffensive,” Bangert said Walker had once said.

McManus, a member of No Place For Hate Harwich organizing committee, read the Proclamation of Respect crafted by the committee and approved by selectmen. It proclaims recognition of diversity in the community and encourages residents to foster understanding and respect. It identifies safety, well-being and respect as essential ingredients of the community. It further invites full participation in community affairs, encouraging people of every race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical and mental ability to join in building a community of respect.

Several members of the clergy spoke. Harwich Youth Chaplain Linnea Snow said the clergy association voted last Wednesday to endorse the No Place For Hate Harwich program.

Several people in the audience also spoke. David Agnew of South Chatham , with an “Impeach Bush” button on his cap, urged those present to speak out against the “illegal war” in which the United States is now involved. He said Martin Luther King would have had something to say if he were alive today.

Jessica Comeau, who was selected from more than a dozen youth present, thanked people for coming together and being involved in the Proclamation of Respect. People then lined up to sign a version of the proclamation.

It was a hearty group in attendance, with temperatures hovering around 25 degrees and winds howling above 30 knots.

“I think it’s a testament to the hard work we’ve done that we got this many people out in this weather,” Susan Leven said. Leven was one of the first people to observe the defaced sign in late November and reported it to the police department. “I hope the interest continues.”

The committee, which is charged with educating people in Harwich against intolerance and fostering respect, was scheduled to begin that task in a meeting Tuesday.


John L. Hoh, Jr. said...

Several people in the audience also spoke. David Agnew of South Chatham , with an “Impeach Bush” button on his cap, urged those present to speak out against the “illegal war” in which the United States is now involved. He said Martin Luther King would have had something to say if he were alive today.

Yes, I'm sure Martin Luther King, Jr. might have something to say today. But what would he say? And can we really speak for someone who is not here to speak for him/herself? Would a position in 1960 be reversed today owing to what circumstances are and exist? I believe there is a danger to say, "This is what a famous person would say if alive today." As a Lutheran theologian I have heard people introduce things to the liturgy on the basis that "Luther did this, so we should go back to what Luther did." An example of this run amok is Luther's baptism rite, which contained an exorcism and a rite where spit is applied to the baby. I tracked down Luther's rite and discovered there was a companion piece Luther wrote in which he stated he would have taken those elements out but retained them for now so as not to trouble weak consciences.

Personally, I think MLKJ would have more to say about the lack of a cohesive family structure among some minority communities. MLKJ not only railed against society's injustices, but he also appeal to his people to rise above those injustices. Sadly, many liberals today lack the vision that King had and that lack of vision is a detriment to their constituency.

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