By: Brian Genest – July, 2019
In some towns in Massachusetts, our independence is celebrated on July 4th. In Dracut, there’s plenty of opportunities to fight for – and celebrate – freedom all year long. No matter the season, the First Amendment always seems to be the last resort for town government, sadly.
This year, freedom rang loudly and strongly in Dracut on May 2nd. That was the day Jesse Forcier, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, notified the Dracut Republican Town Committee (DRTC) that elected officials had finally taken charge and managed Town Manager James Duggan. As you may remember, Duggan had illegally banned the DRTC from marching in the town’s Memorial Day parade in honor of our fallen veterans. Of course, he’d probably like you to forget…
Despite the fact that Selectmen publicly criticized the ban and spoke in favor of letting all town groups march, Duggan dug in and defied his five bosses. He tried to pass the buck to the American Legion and Colleen Garry, Dracut’s favorite strip-mall lawyer who provides free services for Post 315. (They definitely get what they pay for – and they deserve better!)
As soon as Duggan revealed on TV that he had contacted the American Legion commander through John Dyer, a Democrat operative and one of Garry’s political cronies, the gig was up. When it looks like an inside job and it smells like cow manure, it’s dirty politics in Dracut – and Garry isn’t usually too far from the stench.
In case you’ve forgotten, Garry has a history of trying to silence her political opponents and anyone else who disagrees with her. She tried to weaponize the state’s campaign finance law, filing a bill to basically shred the First Amendment, silence any criticism of her very pathetic voting record and make sure no one hurts her delicate feelings. But it backfired, big time. Instead of silencing free speech, Garry caused an outcry of opposition to her proposal, with the Lowell Sun, Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, Boston Herald and Boston Globe all speaking out against her ridiculous and unconstitutional bill. By the way, the irony is that Colleen Garry tried to change the same law she was fined $5,000 by the state for violating, for failing to keep accurate campaign finance records for many years, sadly.
Anyway, it’s a shame that our veterans were put into the position of being forced to choose sides by Duggan and Garry, who politicized the parade for absolutely no reason other than politics. After all, freedom of speech is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue; it’s an American issue. Our military forces fight all around the world and give the ultimate sacrifice to defend all of us and all our rights, without regard for anyone’s political party back here at home.
Ultimately, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch interceded to ensure freedom of speech wasn’t trampled by town government and that 22 members, associates and friends of the DRTC were allowed to march. In the end, the town’s about-face helped put a face on a group of patriotic citizens who simply wanted to honor our fallen veterans, like everyone else in the town parade.
It wasn’t the first time that free speech was hard to swallow in Dracut or the first time Judicial Watch had to get involved to protect the First Amendment in town this year, sadly. At the end of February, Judicial Watch challenged the constitutionality of the town’s political-sign bylaw. Initially, the town manager tried to dismiss the issue. Six weeks later, he put an article on the Town Meeting warrant to repeal it in its entirety.
On June 3rd, freedom struck again. Town Meeting voted in favor of the repeal, removing illegal restrictions placed on town residents and political candidates that violated the First Amendment and rulings of the Supreme Court. It wasn’t a minute too soon, as the repeal came more than 15 years after the legality of the political-sign bylaw was first challenged in federal court.
Nearly 250 years after our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in the name of freedom, it’s still worth fighting for. And, in Dracut, it’s just as necessary now as it was then. See you on the town battlefield, sadly.
Brian Genest is chairman of the Dracut Republican Town Committee and a member of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee representing the Second Essex & Middlesex District of Andover, Dracut, Lawrence and Tewksbury. ◊