Larry Kelley isn’t happy. He’s the biggest booster of the Fourth of July Parade in Amherst, and he was dealt a severe blow by his nemesis, Gerald Weiss, whom he likes to refer to as ‘his lordship.’
Actually it was the town Manager Larry Shaffer and Weiss plus the rest of the selectboard who decided this week that in 2009, the holiday parade be no longer be organized by private citizens. They’ve decided that the town will take over the job….because Larry and his friends don’t want to allow anybody to carry any sign they want as they march in front of fire trucks and uniformed town and state officials. You see, their concept was that the parade was a big thank you to these ‘first responders’ after 9/11, and we can’t have any anti-war, or anti-Bush protesters getting in the way of this solemn piety.
It seems like no big deal to me…I guess it’s because I don’t really like parades. But Larry has railed against the kinds of people who are likely to carry signs protesting the war in Iraq, or George Bush, and so the group organizing the parade has fought to keep those types of protesters out. But Shaffer said in the newspaper story in the Bulletin that free speech is the most important thing, so after this year, anyone can march and do anything they want.
Larry has threatened to carry an anti-Shaffer sign in 2009′s parade. I’d actually drive down to Amherst to see that. The whole thing makes me happy to agree with my friend Ed, (an 20-year Amherst resident), who came to join me at the cafe for lunch today. “I love this little town,” he said, as we sat outside the cafe sipping post lunch espressos, watching the busy street. ‘It’s a great little town, with everything you need.”
Compared to Amherst with its political volleys, flag wavers and flag burners, constant bickering and arguing among officials and constituencies, sheesh, I’m glad I moved away from there when I was just 21 years old.