City Council to weigh in a week from today
Pro-life Barre Diversity and Equity Committee member William Toborg has been told he will henceforth be silenced by the chair. At right, sculpture in Barre City Hall park.
by Guy Page
At the September 27 meeting of the Barre City Council, the future of our Republic will be on the line.
A bit grandiose, you say? Sure – but it’s fair to say the local application of the principle on which the Republic’s future rests is very much at stake.
That principle is government support for free speech. “Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech,” says the First Amendment. But when government bodies – from our exalted Congress to the lowly Barre City Diversity and Equity Committee – cease to practice the principle of free speech, they become mere authoritarians unworthy of citizen respect. The Republic is crippled.
Only the mutual, free, safe exchange of views can save our national marriage. Muzzling free speech ends any hope of healing our agonizing schism over issues like abortion, immigration, gun rights, gender, education and racism.
On August 9, Toborg was pushed up against a fence by an angry pro-choice driver who didn’t like the pro-life sign on his minivan outside the Barre Primary Day polls. August 14, a fellow committee member asked Toborg what happened at the polls. Toborg answered. No videotape or minutes of the meeting exist, but those who know the soft-spoken, affable Toborg think it unlikely that the tone and content of his response merited this written reprimand from Mulvaney:
“I am very concerned about you bringing up your anti-women activism last evening. Why would you do that? It begs the question about how you could be serving on an equity committee and support such a misogynist perspective?,” she wrote to Toborg. “I will be muting you during the meetings as a result. I have warned you more than once. The only words I will accept from you are, “I resign from the committee”, otherwise you can communicate with the committee through me via email.”
Mulvaney, a government appointee, explicitly threatened to silence fellow appointee Toborg.
Mulvaney’s censure of Toborg was all the more tone deaf because her committee’s job is to defend victims of intolerance. Indisputably Toborg was victimized by an angry driver. He had the marks on his legs to prove it. (He declined a precautionary trip to the hospital.) Furthermore the Barre City Council knew longtime Barre resident was an outspoken pro-lifer when he was appointed earlier this year. Perhaps that was even considered a plus by some.
But obviously not by Mulvaney, who groused in an email to Vermont Daily Chronicle that she had been given no say in who sat with her on the board.
Mulvaney chairs a committee that says it “embraces diversity and provides a safe and unconditional sense of belonging.” Yet she chose to deny speech to someone physically victimized for exercising a constitutional right.
Vermont Daily Chronicle has it on good authority that the Barre City Council will address Mulvaney’s censorship of Toborg at the next Council meeting September 27.
What we don’t know is whose knuckles, if any, get rapped by the Council. Mulvaney, for threatening a fellow board member with cancellation via mute button? Or Toborg, for daring to speak of his pro-life activism?
Which brings us back to government protecting the right to free speech. At least one city councilor seems concerned the city’s Diversity Committee hasn’t lived up to its ideals.
Barre residents “have a right to be concerned about the actions of the chair and committee. A committee that is based on diversity and seeing the value in everyone’s opinion is not what we are seeing through their actions,” Councilor Michael Deering told Vermont Daily Chronicle Monday.
The agenda for the 7 pm, Tuesday September 27 City Council meeting at 6 North Main Street, Barre has yet to be posted on the city website. What is available are the council’s official city business email addresses:
Mayor Jake Hemmerick – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thom Lauzon – email@example.com
Emel Cambel – E.firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Boutin – M.email@example.com
Teddy Waszazak – firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Deering – email@example.com
Samn Stockwell – firstname.lastname@example.org
This isn’t Progressive Vs. Republican, Liberal Vs. Conservative, Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice. The urge to oppress speech is sadly universal. This is American Freedom vs. Authoritarian Government. Which will win?
Categories: News Analysis