Town Meeting logoUPDATED May 1: Warrant Article 15, banning the sale of new fur, passed easily toward the end of session 2 of annual Town Meeting on Monday night, April 29: 194 in favor, 50 opposed and five abstaining. No one spoke against it. Elizabeth Dray of Precinct 10 noted that it would have no immediate effect, as no one in town sells new fur; the measure does not ban sale of leather, cowhide or sheepskin; and it does not ban sale of used-fur goods.

However, Article 14 -- seeking to impose restrictions on protests near or aimed at any given private residence -- was soundly defeated, with 87 in favor, 142 opposed and none abstaining. The vote was on the measure including its three amendments. 

"The town bylaw remains intact," Town Moderator Greg Christiana announced after the vote that followed nearly two hours of debate involving more than a dozen speakers, with the lion's share opposing it essentially on First Amendment grounds.

Town officials make their case

The original version received three amendments: adding the phrase "focused on, and taking place" at a sole residence; restricting the proposed ban to between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. only; and making exceptions for protests carried out by or invited by those living in the particular residence being targeted.

Article 14 in its original form had been recommended, 4-1, by the Select Board earlier this month. Monday evening, board Chair Steven DeCourcey called it "a limited restriction but a very important restriction" and said it was consistent with a 1988 Supreme Court case and that the language was modeled on that of similar regulations already in force in Boston and Brookline. It sought "protection of the unwilling listener" following the "captive audience doctrine" and correctly favored the right to privacy over the right to free speech, he said.

Immediate previous board chair Eric Helmuth, saying that he was speaking only as an individual, also supported it, saying that free speech is "a precious right but a limited right," that "the tactic of targeting people in their homes has a long and ugly history," that the language of the article "was actually carefully crafted" and that it would "give the town tools it doesn't have now."

 Police Chief Julie Flaherty said that it would "really provide clarity to officers," because criminal charges such as disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, loitering and trespassing are too narrowly defined to limit demonstrations.

Majority just not buying it

But those arguments did not carry the day, especially with the many who appeared to perceive any change to the town bylaw as overly restrictive of the right to free expression. 

Colin Bunnell (5), whose amendment was accepted, nevertheless was opposed, saying that the right to protest is under attack almost everywhere currently. Xavid Pretzer (17), whose amendment also passed, said Article 14 would have "a chilling effect." Adam Auster (16), assistant town moderator, said that "Arlington has many [other] ways to counter hate." Jordan Weinstein (21) called it "extremely vague" and "a terrible [potential] law and added, "There have to be better ways."

Similar comments included the following:

"I am horrified at this article that is before us," said Beth Melofchik (9). "We could potentially lose freedom."  Lynette Culverhouse (11), said, "I also rise up in strong opposition," asking fellow meeting members to help preserve democratic rights.

Robin Bergman (12) called it "way too broad and too vague" and said that "restrictions on protest are restrictions on democracy." Dray said that she had "lingering concerns" and suggested, "Let's [just] use the laws we [already] have."

As per the new protocol this year and as they did Wednesday night April 24, members voted just after 10:30 p.m. to adjourn rather than continue to the previous traditional ending time of 11 p.m. 

Town Meeting is set to resume at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 1. The next articles expected to be considered are 16 and 17, having to do with pets.

Watch ACMi video of session 2:
Resources/background about TM 

Local cable television station ACMi provides live coverage on cable (Comcast 22, RCN 614, Verizon 26) and streaming live at acmi.tv/govlive and also posted online on YouTube. The cable TV station also typically will rebroadcast each session multiple times.

The Town of Arlington has a link-heavy page specifically about Town Meeting. Among other things, it has a frequently updated link to the annotated warrant (a detailed and augmented list of the articles, most either submitted by a government official or advanced by a group of residents) and a "tracker" or or dashboard or specialized spreadsheet that is supposed to be kept up in real time.

There are guidelines and forms; downloadable templates for those for amending the original motion and for substituting an alternate version to the original motion; historical records of previous Town Meetings; and ways to see emails, updates and announcements.


Town Meeting 2024's main link on the Town of Arlington website 

YourArlington  summary of 2024 Town Meeting information


This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published late Monday, April 29, 2024. It was updated, to add ACMi video window.