by Guy Page
Navy veteran Brian Judd and others raised a 20’ x 30’ American flag over Barre City Hall Park Saturday morning, Sept. 11 to honor the Americans who died in the 9/11 terrorist attack. They acted in defiance of City Councilors who Tuesday refused permission, with one councilor saying she considered the flag “intimidating.”
Weeks ago Judd began making preparations with city officials to fly the flag across North Main Street at City Hall Park on 9/11, in hopes of reviving a longstanding Barre tradition of flying the flag on 9/11. As of last Tuesday, only permission from the City Council was lacking.
He never got it. Videotape shows that after Councilor Michael Boutin moved to approve, Mayor Lucas Herring asked for a second to the motion.
Silence. No one spoke for five long seconds, Herring called the motion dead for lack of a second.
In a rambling explanation beginning at the 1:37:30 mark of the public access TV video, City Councilor Emel Cambel said she found the big flag “intimidating.” A member of the controlling Progressive faction of the city council, Cambel raised questions of insurance, which Judd said he will pay for himself. She said it was all happening too quickly, even though Judd’s been working with city officials for almost a month. She said the little flags on Main Street telephone poles are sufficient. And then she said:
“I was trying to visualize what a big flag at the other end would look like. I personally find it completely intimidating. It just sends a message that I’m uncomfortable with.
“I also have an uneasy feeling about the intent because over the past few years we’ve all seen, or at least I’ve seen, and believed that there have been some pretty ugly connotations that have been used to promote classes that are contrary to what I believe our national flag stands for. I think the flag has been used for some of those connotations that makes me really worried. I also feel like I’m being held hostage to a certain extent, that if I vote no that might be interpreted as my being anti-American, and if I vote for it I think I’m supporting the possibility of some negative points of view.”
Well, nuts to that, Judd thought to himself.
“First I felt shock. Then I felt anger. Then I felt disappointed,” Judd said. “This was about honoring the 3000 people who died. And they made this divisive.”
The Barre native, Navy veteran (1978-1983) and son of recently deceased local funeral home owner and Army officer Bruce Judd called a few friends Wednesday morning and proposed a good old-fashioned flag wave at City Hall Park on the morning of September 11.
People heard about and (thanks to public access TV) saw what happened. “A fire was lit,” Judd recalled. “People were pissed.”
In short order, a pole was custom fabricated to hold the flag, a crane was volunteered to raise it. As was a truck to transport the crane. Holes in the flag were custom-mended by Boisvert Shoe Repair, an owner-operated Main Street business. (The flag code permits mending damaged flags in order to fly them again.)
Judd wanted to keep everything on the down-low. “I didn’t want any Antifa, BLM, any shutdown,” he explained.
But word got around town. Judd wondered if the police would object. But there were no complaints from Barre’s brothers in blue of the 23 NYPD officers who died the day the Twin Towers fell.
The festivities were held in weather almost as beautifully as that impossibly perfect morning 20 years ago. Mayor Herring – unable to vote on Tuesday – showed his support by canceling his morning plans so that he could give a speech honoring those who died during the terrorist attacks. The crane raised the flag at 9 AM. A woman on a bullhorn led them in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Councilor Cambel was nowhere to be seen. No one else seemed “intimidated.” People beeped horns in approval. Many pulled over their cars and joined. The impromptu crowd swelled to over 100.
The huge success was no doubt disappointing to the disapproving city councilors, some of whom fought tooth and nail to fly the BLM flag in the park. But what they underestimated was the peaceful, principled civil disobedience of the organizers.
They also didn’t know Judd’s very personal, very powerful reason for wanting to honor the fallen of 9/11. He was almost one himself.
Brian Judd had a ticket to fly on American Airlines Flight #11, loaded with fuel to fly nonstop September 11 from Boston to LA, where he worked as an actor. But wanting to spend more vacation time in Vermont, he rescheduled his return for September 12.
The next day, Flight #11 slammed into the North Tower. But for a last minute decision, it would have been father Bruce Judd holding a funeral for his son Brian, and not the other way around.
This is not the first time Judd and the Progressive City Council have tangled. Finishing behind a Progressive in the March election that he is contesting, Judd was a vocal opponent of the Council’s determination to fly the BLM flag and only the BLM flag under the U.S. and Vermont flags in City Hall Park. Judd and others successfully pushed for a resolution for a flag-of-the-month policy, in which BLM waved only during the first month.
Since Saturday, many Barre residents have expressed a desire to hold a recall election for Emel Cambel. “This is where this city is going as well as in our state and especially our country,” Barre resident and business owner Jean Gosselin said on Facebook. “This is the perfect example of how it starts at the local level.”
In the context of the local furor over the City Council’s failure to endorse the waving of the American flag, “this is how it starts” could mean the Council’s decision to not second the resolution. It could also refer to the start of a citizen movement to fight and eventually regain City Hall in the Granite City.
Categories: Community Events