Letter: It’s unfair to allow a rally, while canceling a race

Posted 6/17/20

On a recent Saturday morning I was out for my daily run when I came across hundreds of racial bias protesters assembling at the entrance to Colt State Park on Asylum Road, preparing to march …

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Letter: It’s unfair to allow a rally, while canceling a race

Posted

On a recent Saturday morning I was out for my daily run when I came across hundreds of racial bias protesters assembling at the entrance to Colt State Park on Asylum Road, preparing to march down Hope Street to Independence Park for a rally and speaking program.

I then continued my run and witnessed the protesters gathered at Independence Park, along with dozens of police officers from Bristol and numerous other police departments from all over the state. Watching this demonstration and march made me proud to be an American and a Bristolian, as both the protesters and the police were polite, friendly, peaceful and professional, and it showed the world that our town leaders support people’s constitutional rights.

Unfortunately my feelings soon turned to disappointment, as I thought about how the town recently revoked the permit  for the annual Independence Half Marathon road race, which was scheduled for June 27 at the same venue of Independence Park, due to coronavirus concerns and the governor’s executive order prohibiting gatherings of more than 15 people.

Once again, I totally support the hundreds of racial bias protesters who I witnessed at Independence Park, as well as any other group that chooses to exercise their constitutional right to peacefully assemble, whether it be for a protest, road race, religious service, or any other type of peaceful gathering.

I do, however, have a problem when the town allows a march and demonstration such as what I witnessed two Saturdays ago, which was in obvious violation of an executive order, but revokes the permit for a road race at the same exact location with approximately the same number of participants.

Every week, the police report in this newspaper is full of incidents where the police broke up gatherings of far fewer people than the hundreds of people who were at this demonstration, but somehow this gathering was allowed to be held. I do not know if it was the town council that gave its blessing for this large gathering at Independence Park that was in clear violation of the governor’s executive order, but I do know it was the town council that revoked the permit for the Independence Half Marathon on June 27.

Sorry, Town of Bristol leaders, but you need to exercise your powers evenly and allow gatherings for all peaceful groups — not just certain ones. The people marching and demonstrating were there to protest unequal treatment, and the town showed exactly what inequality is all about by allowing one event and revoking the permit of a similar event that was to be held at the same location later this month. Now I see why those people were out protesting that Saturday — different rules for different people.

I hope that many other groups and organizations in town that had permits revoked for their events this summer take notice of this past weekend’s march and demonstration and move forward with their own events without the approval of the town, and force the town’s hand. If enough people act and speak up, change can be achieved, as the protests and demonstrations all over our country in recent days have proven.

Mike Proto
Bristol

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