By Chris Paul
The Town Council faced a number of questions during its Monday, Aug. 29, meeting in regards to several incidents that arose during the town’s recent Old Home Day celebration.
A number of concerned residents attended the meeting, many of which were very vocal about issues that happened on Saturday, mainly centered on parade participants.
Two of the main issues were; why there was a confederate flag allowed to be flown on a jeep in the parade; and why a group of abortion rights activists were permitted to march and shout their views through megaphones.
There were also concerns raised about two incidents of unsafe driving by town officials in golf carts and why a gay youth group was allowed a spot on the Town Common.
Two days after the Old Home Day parade, the Town Council issued a statement condeming the confederate flag issue, saying they were not aware of the flag until it was too late.
Town Manager, Mike Malaguti, addressed many of the issues at the Monday night meeting in a slide presentation.
On the parade issues, Malaguti said there were only about two to three volunteers directing participants at the staging area in the middle school parking lot and there were 62 groups registered to march.
All participants were registered through Kirby Brown at the Town Office well before the day of the parade.
Malaguti said the abortion rights group registered under the name of a “Women’s March Londonderry” and described themselves as a Women’s Rights group looking to get women to vote.
The general message of the presentation was that if the town wishes to limit the kinds of participants in the parade, they would need to base that on a theme, but up until now, the town has never excluded groups wishing to march.
Later in the meeting, the council noted that there would be discussions leading up to next year’s celebration in order to set better guidelines for participants. They also expressed the need for more volunteer participation leading up to the four-day celebration.
Malaguti finished by saying, in response to the question, “How could you let certain people participate and who at the town approved this?” My answer is this, I am the Town Manager, I oversaw the town government’s response and involvement to Old Home Day. These decisions were mine, and mine alone. I for one am proud to live in a country where the government doesn’t get to tell us what we can and cannot say.”
Residents attending the meeting were allowed to speak briefly about their concerns.
Many comments were made about the response issued by the Town Council on a confederate flag flying on the rear end of a Jeep. Most felt that all the issues that arose should have been addressed, not just that one.
Resident Jonathan Esposito brought two safety issues up, saying that he and his wife were volunteers at the celebration and witnessed elected officials driving without regard to those around them. He also said that they reported two incidents to the police, but their phone calls were never recorded by the police dispatcher.
Deputy Chief Kim Bernard was attending the meeting and said he was not aware of complaints by the dispatcher of officers at the parade.
Resident Kristine Perez followed up by verifying that she saw the incident as it happened.
Perez also questioned why the Town Council chose to only address the flag issue and not any others.