Letters to the editor

Tarrytown Advance Notice Requirement for Protests is Too Strict

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October 20, 2020

To the Editor,

Before I was elected to the Board of Legislators and Town Supervisor, I was a political activist. I organized many protests and rallies, and once the Greenburgh Police even threatened to arrest me for handing out questionnaires at the Hartsdale train station -trying to get bus service started to compete with the railroad. Common Cause named me one of six national recipients of their public service award for my activism.

I mention that because I valued my ability as a citizen to express myself, to speak out on issues that I felt were important. I also felt it was important to express my views –even if they were different than views shared by establishment politicians.

If Tarrytown passes a law that would limit demonstrations and would require 15 days advance notice, it will make it difficult for anyone to organize timely protests. I remember attending a protest shortly after President Trump took office and shortly after he started going after immigrants. Hundreds of people, including myself and some members of this committee, attended a rally in Tarrytown- on a few days’ notice. One Sunday, in Sleepy Hollow, about 1,000 people attended a similar rally after a church service. These protests could not have taken place if there would have been a 15-day advance notice requirement. When Rob Astorino was County Executive, I participated in a number of protests against his policies. I remember one rally we organized opposing cuts in bus service. Another against gun sales at the county center.  If we would have had to give the county 15 days’ notice, it would have been too late to make an impact on policy.

Activists want to be noticed. There is nothing worst for an activist than to be ignored. If the Back the Blue protest organizers would have been left alone, no one would have paid attention. If there is a fight, if there is controversy, it’s a news story—which is what they want. The proposed law will generate what they want: attention.

Finally, when a law is written, those advocating for or against the law should realize that the circumstances may change a few years after the law is passed. The Tarrytown law is being written to respond to the hateful comments made by people who do not support Black Lives Matter. Five or ten years from now, Whites could be in the minority. I don’t want anyone in government at that time limiting our ability to express ourselves and to exercise our First Amendment rights. When I protested against President Trump’s policies, I appreciated the fact that in this country everyone can express themselves.

PAUL FEINER

Greenburgh Town Supervisor

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