In the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol and widely-shared images of a Natick Town Meeting member inside the building, Natick’s Select Board lawyered up and issued two carefully-worded statements about the community’s shared role in supporting democracy and public health. As Board member Michael Hickey said, “In some ways it’s incumbent upon us as leaders to somewhat reinforce the obvious at times, or state the obvious. It shouldn’t need to be said, some of the things, but it’s important to do so.”
Board Chair Jonathan Freedman, with his trademark patient style, made clear from the start that the board would not be naming names, and neither should the public during portions of the meeting allowing for citizens to speak. She who shall not be named should not be named, and she wasn’t over the roughly 30-minute section of the meeting that began about a half hour into the meeting.
Surprisingly, only four citizens spoke up, though more than a thousand signed a resident’s petition urging the ouster of the aforementioned Town Meeting member. Like so many town meetings these days, much of this one was scripted, with town officials and citizens alike reading statements, and discussion at a minimum. Much discussion had already taken place on social media, and the Select Board had communicated with the health and police departments, as well as town counsel, before formulating its response.
Freedman said town officials have been “inundated with emails, phone calls, and a petition on these matters, and it is worth noting that what we have heard came from all perspectives.” All input was taken seriously, he said.
Select Board member Karen Adelmen-Foster followed up the reading of the public health statement below by emphasizing that the Health Department is well aware of and has jurisdiction to take action regarding the wide range of issues being seen in public health, and that the Board should support that.
Freedman, in between the board’s reading of at that time draft statements about public health and democracy, clarified information about “the state of the law with respect to the events that happened in Washington last week and somewhat in response to many of the emails and telephone calls that we have received as a result of that.” This boiled down to federal law enforcement authorities handling the legal end of things: “The town does not have a role in that except to assist if requested,” he said. Separately, the Board of Health and Health Department are aware of and are addressing of public health issues that may have arisen from the activities in Washington, D.C., and there was no further comment on that.
Regarding the possible removal of a Town Meeting meeting member from their position, neither the Select Board, Moderator, Town Clerk, nor town administration have any authority over Town Meeting members since they are not town employees or officers.
Our shared responsibilities to democracy
The Natick Select Board joins with leaders at the local, state and federal levels – and in the private sector – in condemning the shocking and disgraceful events of last Wednesday [Jan. 6] on Capitol Hill. We support the right of all people to engage in peaceful protest, the right to petition and the right to free speech. The unlawful actions of last week, however, were an attempt to thwart the will of the American people, as expressed in a legally conducted election. It was an attack on democracy itself, and we strongly condemn it. We call for accountability for those who acted unlawfully and for the leaders and others who encouraged and supported such actions by words and deeds. In light of the flagrant expressions of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ speech that characterized the event, we reaffirm our commitment to the value of all people. We mourn the loss of Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood. We extend our gratitude to those members of law enforcement who risked their lives to protect our country and who continue to do so. We call on the community of Natick and ourselves to do better, to remember that words matter and truth matters, and we call upon our community to remember that, as Americans, far more unites us than divides us.
Our shared public health responsibilities
Community members who have disregarded public health and public safety measures during this heightened phase of the pandemic are endangering us all. This holds true regardless of the reason for the unsafe behavior—whether it was to attend political events, to celebrate a holiday or for any other reason. We urgently call on everyone who lives, works or spends time in Natick to follow travel, distancing and quarantine rules, and to wear a mask. We strongly support the Director of Public Health and the Board of Health in their efforts to enforce these measures as they see fit.