Muzzle mania

Letters to the Boston editor, July 11, 2008

Giving a Muzzle Award to the Boston Police Department for its handling of Veterans Day protesters is in keeping with widespread media complicity that allows lower ranks to be court-martialed while war criminals in the White House escape accountability for Abu Ghraib. The award rightfully belongs to Mayor Menino and the majority of the Boston political establishment, i.e., Representative Stephen Lynch, Senator Jack Hart, City Council President Maureen Flaherty, et al., for cleverly “outsourcing” punishment of misconduct at various holiday community events to escape accountability for political decisions. Instead, the powers that be use cat’s-paws such as the American Legion and the Allied War Veterans.

I was the appointed spokesperson for Veterans for Peace and met with the BPD’s superintendent, Daniel Linsky, with respect to the 2007 Veterans Day ceremony conducted on City Hall Plaza. Linsky provided ample security during the parade and at the ceremony.

We were in fact interfering with the conduct of the observance, standing on stage gagged and holding signs. The police captain charged with security asked us three times to stand down, and when we refused, he clearly had no option other than to arrest us.

It is my opinion that, given the passions of many participants, we were handled as neatly as possible at all times. The majority of those 18 arrested was seniors, and was, for the most part, handled as such. It has also been my experience that, at other events in previous years, Veterans for Peace has not been denied freedom of expression by the BPD, but very cutely has been by the political establishment and the American Legion, the latter of whom has vigorously blocked protest against the war at the dictate of a renegade political administration.

Indeed, the BPD allowed us to march in 2003, and, as a consequence, was sued by the Allied War Veterans — successfully, of course, through decisions made by a Supreme Court responsible for the rupture in constitutional rights. The media would find far greater culpability for the denial of personal liberty were they to examine the process of outsourcing these events at substantial cost to the taxpayer.

Ignorance of the history of these affairs or failure to dig a little deeper unfortunately means that those least responsible are usually “fucked.” (“One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric” — Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan.) In this case, I believe it to be so for the BPD and Veterans for Peace — and who knows what will happen this year. Otherwise, kudos to the Phoenix, perhaps the only voice we have among the neutered media acolytes.

Tony Flaherty
A Veteran For Peace
South Boston

DAN KENNEDY REPLIES I have a lot of respect for Tony Flaherty and Veterans for Peace, but his letter is factually inaccurate. We did not give a Muzzle Award to the “lower ranks” of the Boston Police Department, as he would have it. Rather, we gave one to Boston police commissioner Ed Davis, one of the most powerful officials in city government.

Due to a reporting error in our “Muzzles” story, the role of Maine attorney general Steven Rowe was overstated in a case involving Maine’s Freedom of Access Act. Rowe — who appointed an independent commission to review the conviction of Dennis Dechaine in the notorious Sarah Cherry murder trial — was not, as we stated, a party to a lawsuit aimed at forcing the release of that commission’s documents. However, we continue to believe that Rowe should have ordered that the records be released, as we first argued this past fall.

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