Montpelier City Council, Klar say partisan politics at work over street murals

By Guy Page

The Montpelier City Council on July 8 unanimously rejected a proposal by Republican gubernatorial candidate John Klar of Brookfield to paint “Liberty and Justice for All” on State Street next to the “Black Lives Matter” street mural.

Unlike its June 12 approval of “Black Lives Matter,” the city’s rejection of “Liberty and Justice for All” received spotty coverage from instate media.

But Fox & Friends, the nation’s most highly rated morning news/talk television show, interviewed Klar Sunday. The story also was covered by the Daily Wire, a national conservative news service founded by activist Ben Shapiro. Vermont-based Twitter news site News Done Right on July 1 sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the city council, requesting all information about their deliberations leading to their June 12 decision. After threatening yesterday to report council tardiness to the Vermont Attorney General, News Done Right received a response yesterday evening, publisher Bradford Broyles reported.

For Klar (who is white) and GOP House candidates Alice Flanders (who is black) and Ericka Redic (a white woman married to a black man), painting the final five words of the Pledge of Allegiance next to Black Lives Matter celebrates American constitutional equality and right to life under the law. For the all-white City Council — including several with strong past affiliations with the Vermont Democratic Party — the addition merely distracts and diminishes the BLM message. Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson said she doesn’t like the idea of people driving over even a painted representation of Old Glory.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

Alice Flanders is a candidate for the House Windsor 4-2 District.

Flanders, a resident of Hartford, and Redic, of Burlington, are among 30 candidates for state office associated with the Klar campaign. An introduction of new candidates will be held 11 a.m. Thursday on the Vermont State House lawn. At least one other Klar-affiliated candidate, Levar Cole of Williamstown, is black.

“You can go ahead and preferentially approve of black lives matter, and then turn your back on liberty and justice for all, but history will judge,” said Flanders, an African-American. “I want you to stand and support, Conor [Councilor Conor Casey, who had criticized Klar and his plan in the press.] I want you to say, ‘all right, John, I’m sorry I jumped a gun. Liberty and justice for all, of course. Lliberty and justice for all.’ Vermonters can all rally behind that. I want to stand with you, I want you to stand with me.”

Klar and others have said it seems unfair to allow the message of one group while rejecting another. Mayor Watson said the city is under no First Amendment obligation to honor Klar’s request. “Courts typically consider these displays to be government speech. The US Supreme Court has explained that when government speaks, it is not barred by the free speech clause from determining the content of what it says,” she said. “That freedom in part reflects the fact that it is the Democratic electoral process that first and foremost provides a check on government speech.”

In other words: government speech is accountable to the voters. It’s up to them to check or change government speech.

The same power that gives the council the right to deny also gives the power to grant, Klar said. “As an attorney who worked in free speech law for years I would just point out that I would rather not have litigation on the matter. Whatever you’ve just read from your attorneys, you clearly do have the power also to grant this,” he said. “I would hope that this counsel would not be out to undermine our free speech argument but to embrace our free speech argument especially when what’s in the balance is something as highly visible as the U.S. flag and the Pledge of Allegiance and our police.”

One Montpelier resident — herself a former Democratic party official — called Klar’s proposal nothing but politics.

“I hope that we’re all going to stop suspending disbelief, pretend that this is anything for Mr. Klar other than a political move,” said Maggie Lenz of Montpelier, a lobbyist and former finance director the Vermont Democratic Party. “I think it’s clear to all of us that’s what this is. This is a struggling campaign that’s trying to get attention.“

Another former Democratic politician twice called Klar’s request “disingenous.” Connor Kennedy, of Montpelier, an unsuccessful 2016 Democratic candidate for the state senate from Windsor County, said “I think it would be a terrible disservice to try to literally bracket the message of black lives matter with this other message. It just seems so incredibly disingenuous in this time.”

Having impugned Klar’s personal integrity, Kennedy warned him to expect more of the same: “I hope you are ready for it; it does not stop, you have to stand by your proposals.”

Flanders agreed that timing and politics are playing a role — but not in the way Kennedy and Lenz meant. “Isn’t it just convenient that it [Black Lives Matters] comes up at the time of elections more than other times,” Flanders said. In fact, a Google analytics study by political science Ph.D. candidate Tyler-Joseph Ballard of Poultney shows a spike in BLM-related web activity during 2016 and 2020, with relatively little traffic in between.

Ericka Redic

Ericka Redic

For Redic, the cause of national racial reconciliation isn’t political — it’s personal. It’s family.

“The reason that my husband and I support this this mural proposal is because we are in an interracial couple, we are in an interracial marriage, and so we’ve had these conversations about racial reconciliation and what that looks like, and what’s been required for many many years,” Redic said. “And so we’re very glad that the black lives matter movement has highlighted areas where black people have legitimate grievances against certain systems, certain cities, certain people.

“While this country has not always lived up to its founding ideals, it has with successive generation done better and better and better,” Redic said. The United States is the story of progressive sanctification. This is the greatest country on Earth. And while we are not perfect, we are always looking to get better. And I love that. What concerns me is that the BLM messaging is very divisive, and so in many ways missing the point of moving this country forward. Lliberty and justice for all is not a response to the BLM, it’s not in addition to, it’s not trying to cover up, it is an affirmation that this country is created for everyone and that everyone has equal rights, equal justice under the law.”

After the general public had had its say, the city councilors themselves commented. Casey, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party from 2015-2018, batted leadoff:

“I’m not against the concept of liberty and justice for all. I think it’s a great aspirational statement but right now it’s a farce in America. Yeah, maybe something to aspire to, but until we can recognize that black lives matter I don’t think liberty and justice for all is alive and well in America.” To Klar he said, “I read some of your commentary pieces, and you know I find them offensive. Commentary pieces about reverse racism where you talk about black culture is rife with anti white references and themes, and this has been tolerated presumably because of white guilt.”

When City Councilor Jack McCullough was appointed to the post in 2017, the Times Argus wrote that “residents said privately that the appointment of McCullough was an effort to build a strong presence on the council because of McCullough’s lengthy service as a top Democratic Party official in Montpelier and Washington County.” He noted that he flies the American flag at his home. He agrees Montpelier is under no free speech obligation to submit to Klar’s proposal, he said. He added, “I oppose the message. I do not believe that it is complementary to the black lives matter message. I do not believe it’s intended to be complementary to the black lives matter message. I also oppose the request.”

Ditto, said Councilor Dan Richardson. “The First Amendment protects an open forum, but it doesn’t protect government speech. … If we pass a resolution painting hockey sticks on the street, we don’t have to pass a resolution painting basketballs on the street because the basketball fans deserve equal representation for the basketball team.”

Councilor Lauren Hierl is executive director of the Vermont Conservation Voters, which publishes a legislative scorecard in which most Republicans get low scores while Democrats and Progressives routinely get high marks. She said she hasn’t heard from a single city resident supporting the Klar proposal but has heard from many opponents. “I think at this moment in our nation’s history, the path and striving for liberty and justice for all demands that we affirm that black lives matter. I believe we don’t need to approve this. I strongly oppose it.” Two other councilors, Donna Bate and Jay Ericson, also gave prompt approval, making the decision unanimous.

“I’m very uncomfortable with printing an American flag on the ground,” Mayor Watson said. “I know it’s not a cloth flag but nonetheless with the U.S. flag code not allowing the flag to touch the ground it just really rubs me the wrong way. This is a practice of some other countries — they might print the flag of their enemy on the ground and then have their army march over it. I do not want to have our flag printed on the ground.”

On Tuesday, Klar was asked by Vermont Daily if he plans to pursue the matter further:
“I’m weighing my options, considering allies and legal resources. I have sued the State of Connecticut, the United States Post Office, and numerous large banks and corporations. I’m not going to back down from such a flagrant violation of Free Speech rights.

“In fact, the Council was so outspoken in their condemnation of my effort, importing their subjective judgments into the process as well as my extraneous writings, that they created the perfect record to present to a Court for review. This record shows they scoured my writings to parse out details that THEY feel justified their own prejudices — might this be government stifling my free speech as well? I am not paid anything for my writing, but I am to be stigmatized and attacked by public officials in the course of their duties for my opinions?

“Really, the fact that more people are not disturbed by this Council’s outrageous (white) conduct is proof that Vermonters need to be “woke” to their Constitution.”

Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.

Images courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR and Ericka Redic

10 thoughts on “Montpelier City Council, Klar say partisan politics at work over street murals

  1. – John Klar appears on Fox & Friends
    Pants around ankles alert:
    Montpelier VT and venomous vitriole exposed

    Rollin’ with the big dogs edition:
    Fox & Friends Saturday June 12/2020
    Vermont city council rejects American flag art after pushing through ’emergency’ BLM street mural
    Jul. 12, 2020 – 3:43 – Montpelier, Vermont rejects a petition to paint an American flag and the phrase ‘Liberty and Justice for All’ in front of the Statehouse next to a Black Lives Matter mural
    Facebook link to video:

  2. Concerned about folks driving over the American flag while buring it is OK????Am I missing something????

  3. Somebody should ask Conor about his dad’s Irish and Israeli bank accounts. Make sure to have your phone handy to document the reaction.

    Unless he’s become a better actor (definitely possible), it should be priceless.

    • Maybe Conor Casey has deep pockets for the upcoming slanderous comments he made to a citizen asking for a permit? Can someone in his position call a person a racist with no evidence or proof and get away with it. That sounds like a hate crime to me. Casey isn’t from Vermont, he apparently attained the qualities of the Peter Principal when directing the local democrats and he used to roam around Montpelier at night practicing his love of micro beers prior to the lock down. The Montpelier city council is another collection of incompetent local democrats who believe laws and the constitution do not apply to their self perceived importance.

    • Burlington Boss Clueless’ About Fake Degrees? Uh huh – lol

      Burlington Boss Clueless’ About Fake Degrees
      The president of Burlington College in Vermont said this week he had “absolutely no idea” of any wrongdoing at the Israeli branch of his institution, one of the two foreign universities linked to the fake degree scandal.
      Charlotte Hallé  |  SendSend me email alerts
      Jan 18, 2002 12:00 AM

      • Bulington college scandal #1 mashup:
        …The main server, external hard drive and the Israeli student documents were not among items police recovered from the van…

        In the 1990s, Burlington College operated a foreign extension degree program in Israel that was investigated for selling fake degrees. Five senior managers of the company Burlington College contracted with to operate the program were arrested, according to a Haaretz report.

        The scandal also led the head of an Israeli teachers’ union to resign and more than 100 people, including a member of the Knesset — the Israeli parliament — were questioned as part of the investigation, according to Haaretz.

        The degree selling allegations surfaced during the tenure of former Burlington College president Dan Casey. Sanders succeeded Casey in 2004 and served as president until 2011.

        • Strange and deeply troubling how an educational institution w/such promise and such a great fit for Burlington was rocked by two scandals finally meeting its demise after Diocesegate courtesy of Jane Sanders criminality. Following taking of helm from Clancey who filled the position left by Caseywas run like a Marxist dictatorship complete with self and family enrichment program beloved by the corrupt Sanders’ and doomed to fail by design.

  4. Vermont needs more than “woke”, we need an educational reformation.

    Why aren’t people outraged? They have absolutely no idea what type of government we have! Ask anyone……”oh we’re a democracy.” WRONG.

    We also have the most censored press in the Nation. Finding out the political back ground of these counselors makes for interesting reading, seriously, it’s all high powered, connected Montpelier, NWO pimps, these people are not American loving democrats.

    Reason no outrage, we are “educating” our children in protesting, democracy, organizing and general democratic socialist activities aka communism. We educating little Marxist know it alls.

    BLM should have never been painted. The money going to this organization has nothing to do with benefiting any black person. It is entirely benefiting those little Marxist’s and all their organizations. Follow the money, these people are either too stupid to know they are being conned or perhaps truly evil, take your pick. It’s time to get educated, just say no to indoctrination.

    You will know a group by their actions. What positive things have they done? How are they uplifting our brothers and sisters…..tearing down Fredrick Douglas statues, talking about tearing down Ethan Allen? Burning and looting neighborhoods? Follow the money, follow the destruction. Read your history, this is how countries are subverted.

    BLM = _itchy Little Marxist by their actions and apparently their affiliations.

    Prove me wrong… me the money.

  5. BLM, what a sham and Vermont Liberals are all in on the nonsense,
    painting streets, why ?? BLM co-founder states she a Marxist what’s
    that tell you, all this hype……. nothing but a sham !!

    Come on does anyone really believe the rhetoric, If they really cared
    about” black lives “, they would be protesting in cities like Chicago, NY
    and others, with there daily ” blood Letting ” on their own, and this
    includes children, yes children ……….

    Wake up people, you’re being played, or you’re a mindless fool !!

  6. Ericka Redic spare us the self-righteous sermon. Everything Democrats do is political. It may be sold as “to us it’s personal” but it’s nothing more than shoving your politics down everyone else’s necks. To pretend the Montpelier City Council isn’t violating Klar’s civil rights merely for politics is laughable and something only a fool would believe. Just another Democrat fraud perpetrated on the citizens of Vermont.

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