My View: In Provincetown, strange views of the First Amendment – Wicked Local Provincetown

Posted: July 21, 2020 at 12:34 pm

I was tagged in these pages last week as mystery man the person Town Moderator Mary-Jo Avellar reported to the police for handing out fliers criticizing her as I stood on Commercial Street outside her workplace. Im not really a mystery. Ive been a part-time resident and taxpayer here for 20 years.

After Ms. Avellar took my picture, her Finance Committee appointee Mark Hatch posted it on Facebook in an effort to divine my identity. It wasnt a coincidence that Hatch, who chairs that committee, anointed himself Avellars private investigator.

Under the town charter, Avellar is primarily responsible for reviewing recent allegations thatHatch authored social media posts that were misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and otherwise degrading toward immigrants and participants in Black Lives Matter protests. But like most of Provincetowns elected leaders, shes brushed off Hatchs pattern of intemperate online hate speech.

Instead of taking appropriate action, she foreshadowed the later comments of our witless President when she recently told the Banner, Even the Ku Klux Klan . . . are entitled to free speech. Yet no one has a constitutional right to serve on a town committee, much less chair it. Even House Republicans found enough guts to kick Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) off his committees for the bigotry he voiced.

In a true perversion of the First Amendment, several of Hatchs Facebook followers seem to think it was bad taste or even illegal to protest against a public official on a public street in front ofthat person'sworkplace. Heres what I think: Its bad taste not to mention, ignorant for the Town Moderator to invoke the Ku Klux Klan as an excuse for protecting the alleged hate speech of her own appointee. The Klan is a terrorist organization primarily known for beating and murdering African-Americans, as well as Jews, Catholics, immigrants, and their allies.

I took this step because Avellars outrageous excuse required an outraged response. Many people here today are immigrants, as were the ancestors of many Provincetown families. At least half the towns population is female. Our neighbors include Jews and people of color. We deserve better from the Town Moderator and the Finance Committee.

That committees Code of Conduct states, Remember that you represent the entire community at all times not just while sitting behind a dais. If Provincetown is supposed to be a loving, welcoming community, committee chairs shouldnt spew hate online, and a top elected official cant hide behind the KKK as a reason for refusing to investigate credible allegations that this Code of Conduct provision was violated.

The Town Moderator has already prejudged this matter, so it would be inappropriate for her to act on it. But under Chapter 3, Section 5 of the town charter, the Select Board may investigate and impose sanctions for the alleged misconduct of any member of a town board, commission, or committee. Theres been a formal complaint filed. Its time for the Select Board to step up and act.

Its also well past time the Town Moderator was reminded that her job, by definition, is to create order out of chaos not to keep sowing greater chaos, either among the Towns residents or leaders. If some confidantes would have the courage to tell her that, maybe shed take the message to heart.

My View: In Provincetown, strange views of the First Amendment - Wicked Local Provincetown

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