The current state of activism in Lawrence


By: Joe D’Amore – June, 2012

The community action movements that swept Lawrence “It’s Your Right” and “Uniting Lawrence” appear to have initated derivative actions that speak to a yearning for change in this city. These have manifested themselves in unique ways such as a proliferation of Face Book groups, radio programs, letter writing campaigns and social events. Collectively, these provide a compelling backdrop of activism promoting the rationale for change tempered by the recognition of what is good about the city.

I do believe however, that a reformist movement that is lead by candidates for upcoming elected positions including the Mayor’s seat is the only effective opportunity for a transformation of politics in Lawrence. Nothing is more powerful in making changes in any jurisdiction in the Commonwealth than an enlightened, populist electoral process. The current condition of limited engagement or even a barely discernible level of interest in producing competitive candidates does not bode well for Lawrence. Perhaps it is quietly occurring behind the scenes and this criticism is unwarranted. But perhaps there is no such activity.

You may remember from history that it was said that after the Pearl Harbor attack “…a giant was awakened” which was in reference to the industrial and military might of the United States. The words were uttered by the architect of the attack in his recognition that an ominous condition had inadvertently been created that was not favorable to the aggressor.

There is a “giant” in Lawrence. Thousands of voters, many who feel they have been assaulted by numerous injustices by those in elected office. As a group they can deliver an ominous turn of events in Lawrence. But only if they have someone they can vote for to bring a reversal of their forturnes.

Some continue to voice hope for a material change borne by a conclusion to one of many, reported “multi-jurisdictional “ investigations. . Perhaps, these may produce a piece of legislation or court order to move people out of office. There are many dangers to this including the outright removal of representation altogether with comprehensive receivership. Recent efforts to write letters of appeal to legislators must continue to be encouraged. There is evidence that local legislators are beginning to respond with tentative suggestions of supporting legislation that will improve conditions . But such promises should not be construed as the primary method of change in Lawrence. Hoped for interventions from outside Lawrence may prove to be marginally helpful at best and without any effect at worst.

For those who continue to hold out such hope may not recognize that structural corruption and self-serving patterns in Massachusetts politics do not produce conditions that nurture policy interventions that are favorable to constituents who have legitimate grievances.

A “top -to- bottom” approach by state officials and Merrimack Valley legislators- have a long history of producing little change .

This is partly because legislators do not have direct jurisdiction over the City of Lawrence and partly because their political will is suspect. There isn’t a better example of this than the Governor himself. His limited, vacillating public statements in response to outrage from Lawrence citizens is an intricate blend of innocuous “political speak” that brandishes elements of both due process and feigned sympathy.

Whether or not he is part of any impropriety is not known, and quite frankly doubtful. But his indifference certainly enables any corruption that may indeed exist to flourish.

There is only one element of hope left in Lawrence. It can be prosecuted without anger, activism or disruption. It is simply the taking of elected seats by those who are inclined to conduct themselves as public servants who are focused on the collective good of the community.