Rosenthal Will Not Support Protests, Takes Issue With State Dems Over Demonstration Database
Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said he is refusing to support any organized public gatherings in town related to recent events surrounding the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, Minn., because of public health concerns, while acknowledging peoples’ rights to speak out and peacefully assemble.
At the same time, Rosenthal expressed concerns about a database of demonstration sites that has been published online by the State Democratic Party.
The first selectman said he was contacted by one resident earlier this week asking about the possibility of holding a peaceful protest gathering in town, which he respectfully refused to condone citing Governor Ned Lamont’s Executive Order restricting public gatherings to no more than 25 people, along with his own concerns about such an event possibly spreading the coronavirus among Newtown residents.
“For three months now, we have all worked so hard — [Health District Director] Donna Culbert, our entire emergency management team, and all our residents who have followed the governor’s orders regarding everything from the way we passed our budget to limiting public gatherings,” Rosenthal said. “I even had to tell a grieving mother that she could not hold a memorial for her son. I’m in line with why people are demonstrating, and I can’t stand in the way of any protests that may come together organically, but we’re still in a pandemic.”
In expressing his overarching concerns for maintaining public health measures, Rosenthal said, “I’m not against the idea of a protest, and in any other time I’d be asking where they wanted to hold one and I’d be supporting it. But I am against the idea of hosting large groups of people in town right now.”
Since he was initially contacted, the first selectman said he has learned there could be one or possibly two demonstrations forming this coming weekend. But he said details were circulating on various social network sites.
Newtown Police Chief James Viadero, who last weekend issued a lengthy statement condemning the Minneapolis officers involved in the killing of George Floyd, told The Newtown Bee Thursday morning that if any demonstrations do pop up in town, his officers will be there.
“We will be present to assist and to be there for everyone’s safety,” Viadero said. “We respect their opinion and right to free speech and peaceful assembly. We also share their anger and concern over what occurred in Minneapolis.”
Calling The Governor
While trying to temper any mass gatherings of residents or those who may come to Newtown from elsewhere if one or more demonstrations do occur locally, the first selectman told The Newtown Bee that he has reached out to the governor after seeing a database of planned protests that has been compiled on the website of the state Democratic Party.
On Thursday morning, that listing at ctdems.org had dates, times, locations, and referral links for approximately 50 demonstrations — a number of which have already occurred. The header on the list page identifies the locations of “Connecticut Protests For Racial Justice 2020.”
“What upsets me is the Connecticut Democratic Party is [sharing] this list telling people where to go, while we have the governor, who is the head of that party, standing by his orders on limiting public gatherings,” said Rosenthal, himself a Democrat. “It leaves me scratching my head. I can’t reconcile the two.”
The first selectman noted there is a difference between a gathering that may come together with local residents, and one that is publicized statewide and being promoted by a major political party with thousands of registered members.
“This [web list] crosses the line, so I reached out to the governor about it,” he said. “I don’t think the state Democrats should be promoting this, they’re providing information that would likely build crowd sizes at these local protests and prompting people to come to them from other towns. It seems to be in direct violation of what the governor is trying to do.”
Rosenthal said he received a call from Governor Lamont Thursday afternoon and the governor said he was unaware of the Democratic party's web listing. Rosenthal said the governor would be looking into it.
The Bee has reached out to Lamont's office for a comment.