The Office of the Town Supervisor and Facebook page have received a number of questions and comments about a rally held yesterday. It has created a deeper dialogue about social injustice, many questions about how a rally conflicts with COVID related restrictions, and much vitriol.
Elected officials take an oath to uphold the US Constitution,which mandates that local governments fulfill the rights afforded under the first amendment. Whenever the choice is expression vs suppression, we must always err on the side of the first amendment. Even in today's social distancing COVID world, this is the prevailing legal opinion of municipal attorneys, which is why similar events are being held in almost every other community in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. Local governments cannot, and should not, deny the right to free expression; however, they can dictate the place of such events. The choice of Reis Park, which was opened to the public earlier this week, was made with safety in mind. Most would agree that Reis Park is certainly a better option than Bailey Park. There was space for socially distancing, away from roads, and in general, a more ideal site for public safety. The Somers residents who organized the event planned a peaceful gathering where social distancing measures were adhered to. Law enforcement at the town, county and state levels were all coordinated to protect the safety and well-being of all.
In these extraordinary times, local officials have been given the difficult task of enforcing New York State mandated social distancing measures,in the name of public health. The frustration that has built from three months of quarantine is absolutely understandable, as is the pain and sorrow felt by some members of our community. The reactions this peaceful event has brought about, both in support and opposition, optimizes the crossroads that lay before our country and our local communities. We must be kinder, more understanding and respectful of one another. I believe in this Town and its residents.
Supervisor Rick Morrissey