‘This Is Not Okay,’Newtown Democratic Town Committee Members Speak Out At Legislative Council Meeting
UPDATE: The original article reported that the members who spoke were affiliated with the Newtown Allies For Change. Information received October 29 has indicated that the speakers are members of the Newtown Democratic Town Committee and the reading was organized by member Connie Cooper.
Members of Newtown Democratic Town Committee joined together at the Legislative Council’s meeting, on October 21, to let their voices be heard against injustice in the community. Council members and the public attended the meeting both in person at the Municipal Center and using a call-in option.
At the end of the Legislative Council’s agenda, the floor was opened to voter comments that did not have to relate to business discussed that evening.
Kate Mayer started off by addressing the council as a whole saying, “I’m here today to tell you that I am tired of good people doing nothing… the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
She explained that when bad behavior is rewarded, or when there are no consequences or criticism for those actions, it not only will continue but the acts will worsen each time after.
“So when Black men are killed in streets in cities far away and not so far away, Newtown responded immediately with outrage and peaceful protests…” Mayer said, referencing gatherings held in June.
“They stood on the steps of the Edmond Town Hall and said, ‘What about us? Listen to our stories. We are here. What are you doing to project us? We live here. This is our town,’” Mayer recalled. “And most good people did nothing.”
She went on to cite multiple examples of cases where she felt people did nothing or not enough, one of which was in reference to a letter published by an elected Legislative Council member that she did not specifically name.
Talking directly to the Legislative Council, Mayer said, “While there is freedom of speech, you are all united to work diligently to ensure that opinions like this do not seep into the work of the people... So it’s no surprise when our rhetoric gets ramped up in the absence of criticism, the hate gets more hateful, and the vandalism more scary — it’s just a sign, it’s just a letter, it’s just a bottle, it’s just Facebook.”
She concluded her speech by bringing awareness to the recent Zoom meeting that was conducted in Newtown by State Representative Jahana Hayes, the first African American woman ever elected to Congress from Connecticut. In that meeting, Hayes was bombarded with racist remarks in the public chat section.
“I’m asking you all to do something now. You owe it to the people of color here in town carrying the burden and the risk of inaction. You owe it to the past, to the present, and to the future,” Mayer said. She added that when good people do nothing, racism will continue to “spread and fester and grow unchecked.”
Other members following her speech expressed the hope that something can be done to make a plan going forward for change and that people must no longer deny racism living in Newtown.
For the meeting’s records, four speakers — Eric Paradis, Don Lococo, Ned Simpson, and Alex Villamil — read back-to-back the essay Congresswoman Hayes penned called “I’m Not Okay,” which was published October 13.
In it she recounts the events of her meeting, without naming Newtown, and walks through how she and others were impacted by the racist remarks that included multiple people calling her the N-word and the repetitive blast of the phrase “Go pick your cotton,” in all capital letters.
A portion of Congresswoman Hayes’s essay details, “I am not okay that this happened. I am not okay, that this is not the first time this has happened in my life or that I’ve had to explain that this happens. I am not okay, that I have to post a screenshot to prove it happened. I am not okay, that people will still doubt that it happened or the word of the forty or so participants on the call will be necessary to ‘verify’ the incident happened. I am not okay, that I will have to delicately explain to people that this happens — here. I am not okay, that many will try and separate/defend these words and actions and will not see that these comments are not about policy or politics — they are about racism and hate and challenge our decency. I am not okay! I said it — I admit it, I am not okay.”
Following the recitation of the essay, Villamil added his own point of view.
“Locally, just this past summer, a synagogue was defaced with anti-Semitic slurs, white supremacist propaganda was found stuck on light posts in downtown Sandy Hook, the painful recountings of life in Newtown [were] told by our high school students of color going to Black Lives Matter rallies, and lastly, some of the misinformed and apathetic responses in The Newtown Bee to the Black Lives Matter movement — these demonstrate that racism, intolerance, and a clear disconnect with the gravity of the problem is slowly gaining a foothold in our community,” Villamil said. “This is not okay.”
He told the Legislative Council members that there is an urgent need for dialogue, learning, and proper representation in the community; and he urged the Legislative Council to make Newtown a more just town by setting the tone and making it part of their agenda.
“Make inquiries and promote ongoing public participation with feedback until the goal is accomplished,” Villamil said. “The end goal would be the passing of legislation for the creation of a committee to address grievances for people being targeted because of their color, race, religion, or sexual preference. There and then we will truly be a nicer Newtown.”
For information about upcoming Legislative Council meetings, visit newtown-ct.gov/legislative-council.