Proclamation of Solidarity Proposal Raises Controversy in Clinton
The decision over what a statement of solidarity against discrimination from the Clinton Town Council should say caused a stir in the community and a council meeting on June 17.
At a protest against police brutality and racism held in Clinton on June 7, Christine Goupil, a Democratic Town Council member and a state representative candidate, read aloud a proclamation she intended to bring to the Clinton Town Council and Board of Police Commissioners. Copies of the proclamation were handed out to protest attendees and to the Harbor News.
The proclamation resolves that the Town of Clinton encourages everyone to stand up against prejudice and/or violence and commit to work together, to welcome all residents to voice their concerns, to create positive changes in town and that the town stand committed to peace, justice, and freedom for its citizens and in solidarity with all Americans. (See the full text on page 22.)
Goupil said she wanted to make the proclamation after reading discussions in different social media groups that sprung up around the time of the protest. The proclamation was modeled after similar ones that other towns have issued.
“There is fear and people in the community who don’t engage because of it and we should show them their voice matters,” Goupil said of her motivation to get the town to issue a proclamation.
However, discussion of the proclamation was not added to the Town Council agenda for its virtual June 17 meeting. Goupil said that when she emailed Town Council Chairman Chris Aniskovich (R) about putting the proclamation on the agenda, she was told the proclamation reflected her personal viewpoint and that it wouldn’t be on the agenda.
Word that the council wouldn’t adopt the proclamation reached the public prior to the start of the meeting, and some members of the public logged into the virtual meeting to voice their displeasure at the council ignoring the proclamation.
“When I got the call and found out what happened today, I was appalled and I still am and I’m at a loss for words,” said resident Dan Hua.
Aniskovich disputed the characterization of what happened. During the chairman’s comment portion of the meeting, a visibly irate Aniskovich chastised Goupil and accused her of misrepresenting what he had said in response to the proclamation and of using the discussion of the proclamation as part of her ongoing election campaign.
In the email exchange, which was reviewed by the Harbor News, Aniskovich did write “…this seems to be your personal view which as a town not everyone may be in agreement [with] this.” Aniskovich also wrote that he wanted to hold off on putting the proclamation on the agenda because he wanted more clarification from Goupil and that he felt the council should get input from the police department and police chief because the proclamation mentions them.
At the meeting, Aniskovich said that he responded to Goupil’s email saying he wanted to get more input from the council as a whole, and wanted more input from her on where the discussion should go, not that he was denying issuing a proclamation. Aniskovich said he was upset the proclamation not being on the agenda had turned into a controversy on Facebook and accused Goupil of putting words in his mouth.
“My whole issue was it wasn’t accurate,” said Aniskovich.
Goupil said she was asked by a member of the public why the proclamation wasn’t on the agenda for that night’s meeting, and that’s how word got out. She added she was under the impression that the council was to have all discussions in the public forum, so she did not respond back to Aniskovich’s response to her.
“It would have been helpful to have that discussion” at the meeting, Goupil told the Harbor News. “I was operating in the best interest of the community, being their voice, as their elected official, by requesting the chair bring forward for discussion the Proclamation of Solidarity against racism, ageism, homophobia, classism, ableism, sexism, or violence in our town.
“It is not about me or politics with a capital P, but about what we, as politicians, can and should do to make our community a better place for all, to help see beyond the shell we live in. Isn’t this what we’ve been elected to do?” Goupil told the Harbor News.
During the meeting, Aniskovich said that he, Town Manager Karl Kilduff, and Town Council member Eric Bergman (Green Party) have discussed issuing a public statement about combating racism in Clinton. The statement has not been issued at press time.
Reached for comment after the meeting, Aniskovich said there was “nothing specific” in the proposed proclamation to which he objected, but said he wanted to make sure any statement released from the council was geared toward Clinton instead of a generic proclamation. The proclamation from Goupil was similar to one released June 3 by the Town of Portland.
Aniskovich also said he took issue with a proclamation being designated as from “The Town of Clinton” as opposed to by “The Town Council.”
Aniskovich said the distinction is important because he believes that not everyone in town may agree with the proclamation, and it is their right to do so even if everyone else disagrees.
“You’re not going to get 100 percent of people to agree all the time. We understand what’s going on; that being said, we have to go about it in the right manner,” said Aniskovich. “We all need to be a part of the conversation if we’re going to fix the issue.”
Goupil said she believed the town should put a statement out sooner rather than later because “inaction leads to people assuming you’re complicit in it.”
“Nobody agrees what happened is right, it’s not. I get it, I understand it,” Aniskovich said in reference to the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was publicly killed by a white police officer while three other officers watched on May 25. The case has since been a catalyst for nationwide protests.
In addition to peaceful protests across the country, there have been instances of violence, riots, and looting. With tensions high, Aniskovich said he wants to make sure that any statement put out by Town Council supports only peaceful protests.
“You can’t agree with looting, and mom and pop shops in some cases are losing their shops,” said Aniskovich.
The protests in Clinton and other shoreline towns have been entirely peaceful.
“My opinion is you can support a peaceful protest, but keeping it peaceful is an important thing,” Aniskovich said.
Aniskovich reiterated that the Town Council would make a statement.
“My feeling was to put out a letter from the Town Council that supports everything we believe in but doesn’t not include some people. We are 100 percent behind a message being put out,” said Aniskoivch.
Both Goupil and Aniskovich said they’d like to see the Town Council take concrete steps beyond just issuing a statement.
“It’s abundantly clear from the drum beating across the nation that leadership and accountability is needed,” said Goupil.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, speakers said they would like see the town put together a committee aimed at increasing diversity in Clinton. Goupil said that would be a solid first step and Aniskovich said he liked that idea, and that the council will speak about how best to proceed.
“In the absence of the call to action, I strongly support the creation of a working group or committee to provide recommendations and statistical information to the council. They could identify ways to address issues of diversity, promote diversity programs, and provide support in creating a more equitable, accessible, welcoming and inclusive community,” said Goupil.
Goupil also mentioned getting town services and more groups in town mobilized and engaged in helping combat discrimination issues.
“The sooner we start having these conversations, the sooner we can start reaching out,” said Goupil.
Aniskovich said that he encourages citizens to speak out and get involved by having conversations on issues about which they care. He added that people can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com.
A Proclamation of Solidarity
WHEREAS, the Town of Clinton community stand against injustices wherever and whenever they occur; and
WHEREAS, there is no room for racism, ageism, homophobia, classism, ableism, sexism, or violence in our town, state, or nation; and
WHEREAS, we stand for love and care of all community members, people of all races and for all our neighbors; and
WHEREAS, the death of our fellow citizens at the hands of those who should be protecting us cannot be tolerated; and
WHEREAS, the death of these citizens affects us all, and the suffering and killing has created for their family and our nation is immense and widespread; and
WHEREAS, in the Town of Clinton, our police department fully supports all peaceful protests as protected by our 1st Amendment rights, and ensures the safety of all participants,
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we encourage everyone to stand up against prejudice and/or violence, and we commit to work together with all our residents in the Town of Clinton and that we welcome all residents to voice their concerns and come together to create positive changes in our town;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we stand committed to peace, justice, and freedom for our citizens, here in the Town of Clinton, and in solidarity with all Americans.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story provided an incorrect email for Town Council Chair Chris Aniskovich.