LEWISBORO, N.Y. - A controversial draft resolution supporting minorities and condemning any “racist acts of police violence” against them drew 200-plus people—for and against—to a Monday night session of the Lewisboro Town Board.
The unprecedented turnout, far too large for Lewisboro’s town hall to accommodate, convened instead in cyberspace for a meeting that ran longer than three hours and heard from more than 50 speakers. While residents delivered often sharply divergent views, the tightly controlled public comment period was largely free of the rancor and personal invective that has marred earlier discussions of the resolution.
In fewer than 700 words, the document establishes Juneteenth as an official holiday in Lewisboro and creates a town committee on racial justice.
One speaker, identified only as Frank, summed up the measure as “an inspiring statement of where the town stands” and another, Mina Shah of South Salem, said it “reads like a poem.” Nevertheless, others like Andrea Rendo of South Salem saw in the resolution efforts “to undermine our first responders” and it led Ed Barry of Goldens Bridge to declare, “My hat’s off to the Lewisboro P.D.”
The resolution was inspired in large part by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It deplores “racist acts of violence” and names “other victims of racially biased violence” nationally who died either at the hands of the police or while in custody.
While condemning ills like “systemic racism,” the resolution does not accuse the Lewisboro force of displaying that bias. Direct references to the local police are limited to such things as demeanor and the proper use of force.
But the draft document does call Floyd’s death “murder by police officers,” touching off a vigorous pushback by a number of speakers who noted the lack of any legal determination yet in the case. The policeman who knelt on Floyd, Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin, was fired and now stands charged with second-degree murder and other counts.
Michelle Petromelis of South Salem, a criminal defense lawyer, told the board, “This resolution is nowhere near ready for a vote.”
And the Town Board, Supervisor Peter Parsons made clear at meeting’s end, is nowhere near ready to act. Noting the extraordinary volume of transcribing that awaits Town Clerk Janet Donohue, Parsons said consideration of the resolution would likely not occur at the board’s next meeting, July 27, but roll over to its Aug. 10 session.
Parsons said the board would need to first see the minutes of Monday’s marathon Zoom session, a record that Donohue prepares.
Among the resolution’s other proposals is the creation of a committee “to advise us in the development of . . . public forums, community meetings, educational sessions and peaceful demonstrations” that “educate the community about the ongoing struggle for racial justice.”
The measure also sets aside June 19 as a town holiday. Widely celebrated in the Black community as Juneteenth, it “marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce executive orders to free slaves in enactment of the Emancipation proclamation passed into law two years earlier.”