“Liberty” street mural decision delayed, project criticized by Montpelier official

By Guy Page

Due to a decision by the City of Montpelier, there will be no “Liberty and Justice for All” street mural painting party Friday, July 3, organizer and Republican gubernatorial candidate John Klar said yesterday. 

“They just rejected as too short notice,” Klar said in a July 1 email to Vermont Daily. “We have reapplied for soonest available date.” The next City Council meeting is scheduled for July 8.

Klar submitted the special event request to the City of Montpelier Monday, June 29. In the application, he said he wants to “reaffirm the founding principle in our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal.” Klar says his mural “seeks to unify Vermont’s shared goals of racial comity with a slogan that merely reaffirms founding principles that are now more essential to mutual harmony and respect than ever.”

Klar had applied to paint the new mural Friday, July 3, on State Street between Bailey Avenue and Taylor Street, adjacent and due west of the Black Lives Matter mural painted on State Street Saturday, June 13. 

The BLM mural request was approved unanimously at a Friday, June 12 special meeting of the City Council. Volunteers painted the lengthy street mural the next day. “It’s a quick turnaround here, but with any organizing campaign, you’ve got to feed off the momentum,” City Councilor Conor Casey said. Casey also noted that Gov. Phil Scott had given explicit consent to the BLM mural.

Proposed “liberty and justice for all” street mural

Vermont Daily emailed Montpelier mayor Anne Watson and city councilors Dan Richardson and Conor Casey to corroborate Klar’s account. This comment from Casey, a former Vermont Democratic Party senior official who on June 12 urged the prompt approval for the Black Lives  Matter street mural, was received today:

“I haven’t heard anything from City Hall, but personally speaking, the timing is irrelevant. I would oppose this mural as it detracts from the “Black Lives Matter” message at a time where it is more important than ever to affirm this basic values statement. Unlike the BLM mural, I have yet to receive a single constituent request for Mr. Klar’s proposal and would equate the messaging to “all lives matter” – an inappropriate response to the systemic racism that exists in Vermont and across the country. “Liberty and justice for all” might be a laudable goal, but one we’re very far from achieving. We can’t even paint “black lives matter” on the street without it being routinely vandalized.  

“My only hesitancy in opposing this mural is that it will likely give Mr. Klar the headline he is likely looking for. I’ve found his VT Digger commentary pieces on race to be offensive and unrepresentative of the values of our community.”

Gov. Scott, against whom Klar is running for governor in the August 11 primary, said yesterday he supports the “Liberty and Justice for All” mural as “patriotic” and having a similar message to “Black Lives Matter.”

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 On Saturday, July 4, Vermont Republicans will hold an Independence Day celebration on the State House lawn, from 10 AM – noon. The event will feature music, readings, and talks by candidates. Masks and sanitizer will be available, and attendees are encouraged to practice responsible social distancing. Organizers (and Vermont Health Dept. officials) say an outdoor venue should make any transmission less likely.

PHOTO: GOP candidates will speak at a July 4 celebration on the State House lawn. Above, GOP House candidate Alice Flanders of Hartford at an event this spring on the State House steps. Looking on at left is Rutland Senate candidate Terry Williams.