Letters to the Editor -- September 17, 2010

Bethany mayor gives his opinion on rally

Bethany Beach has a public plaza, which abuts our bandstand that routinely hosts Town-sponsored entertainment throughout the summer months, as well as other community-related events for local churches, charities and families.

Our Town is able to regulate the time of day that the bandstand/public plaza area is used, as well as the manner of its use. What the Town can not regulate, once our requirements of time and manner are met, is who uses the area and the message they convey. The right to assemble and express ones self in a public area is a well known and protected Constitutional right.

The Town of Bethany Beach has recently received attention and criticism because of a planned “rally” by the “Aryan Nations,” an infamous organization of white supremacists.

The Town received a request from a person purporting to be a member of the “Aryan Nations” asking to use the bandstand/plaza area for a rally to protest illegal immigration. It was clear to the Town that even if it refused to officially register the group to use the bandstand/plaza, the group, being well versed in its member’s Constitutional rights, would hold a rally regardless. In order to meet legal requirements, exercise some control over the rally and have it conducted in a time and manner that better suited the Town, the Town officially registered the group’s use of the bandstand/plaza.

It has been portrayed that the Town has the ability to refuse to allow this group to meet in a public place and publicly express their views. That is not the case. The same laws that allow a scoutmaster to bring his troop to the bandstand/plaza for a presentation during the summer or a minister his congregation for an Easter sunrise service are the same laws which protect this group. We have no legal power in Bethany Beach to abridge Constitutional rights of assembly and speech, regardless of how noxious we find the message, and that, we believe, is what our Founders intended.

Although the Town of Bethany Beach is legally required to allow anyone to hold a public meeting, be assured we do not support the Aryan Nations’ organization or their expressed opinions and, in fact, find their statements to be repugnant. If no one attends the event, it should send a loud and clear message to this miscreant group that their vitriol has no audience in our community.

Anthony B. McClenny Sr., Mayor
Bethany Beach

Pastor gives his input on Saturday’s rally

This letter comes from concern about the Aryan Nations’ rally on the boardwalk of Bethany Beach on Saturday, Sept. 18, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

This rally is supposed to be an action to protest immigration policy. The truth is, every time this or related groups rally it is in part to gain new members for their heinous cause.

As pastor of the congregation nearest the location of this rally, Bethany Beach Christian Church, at Pennsylvania Avenue and Campbell Place, I urgently encourage people to stay away from the boardwalk, particularly the bandstand area at the foot of Garfield, during those hours this Saturday.

I know that there will be those who would come out of curiosity. Others will want to have a different kind of rally, one protesting the Aryan Nations. The best course, says one community official and this pastor, is to just stay away. Any presence will be counted by them as support or it will give them publicity. Please understand this.

Finally, whatever you think about immigration, surely their message of hate for people who are racially different is despicable and more, it is evil. Please, by staying away and ignoring them, you give them the rope they need to hang their cause by showing, once more, how reprehensible that cause is.

William Chris Hobgood, Pastor
Bethany Beach Christian Church

Readers: Make it a ‘non-event’

Bethany Beach is targeted next Saturday by the Aryan Nation. Let’s give them a true American welcome. Boycott! Show your proud patriotism, love of our country and acceptance of all our neighbors by ignoring their presence. Don’t show up!

Boycott the bandstand area between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 18. Let them come and then go without any curiosity or demonstration on our part.

While some may agree with their stance on immigration issues, no one of faith can condone the hatred and venom contained in the basic philosophy of Aryan Nations groups. Don’t be fooled into thinking their gathering is about immigration. It’s a recruiting mission.

Have the courage to resist. Don’t stand for intolerance and fear of others. How we treat our neighbor will affect the next following generations. We won’t be there! Please join us.

Proud American moms and grandmas

Bonnie Rae and Rose Mary Hendrix
South Bethany

Keenwick Sound Fair a success

The Keenwick Sound Fair Committee extends thanks to all who contributed to the success of the 17th Annual Fair, held Aug. 28, and especially those listed here: Bayside Package Store, Bayside Resort Golf Club, Bayside Skillet, CactusCafé, Caroline Street, Carrabba’s Restaurant, Coastal Kayak, Dairy Queen, Dead Freddies Restaurant, Deer Run Golf Club, Dirty Harry’s Restaurant, Dumser’s, Em-ing’s, Fenwick Float’ors, Fenwick Island Surf Shop, Fenwick Wine Cellars, Fisher’s Popcorn, Food Lion, Gems Boutique, Georgia House, Giant Food, Harpoon Hanna’s, Harris Teeter, High Stakes Bar & Grill, House of Welsh, Iris’ Hair Design, Jammin’ Jon’s, Jimmy’s Kitchen, Jordan’s Rooftop Restaurant, Ken’s Bayside Pizza & Sub, Lighthouse Sound Golf Course, Lobster Shanty Restaurant, Lost Treasure Miniature Golf, Mancini’s Restaurant, Marvin’s Market, Mio Fratello Italian Restaurant, Nantucket Restaurant, New Face in Town, Old Mill Crabhouse, Old Pro Miniature Golf, Ray Perrone Barber Shop, Sea Shell City, Shamrock Shanty, Slainte Bar and Grill, Smitty McGees, Southern Exposure, Starbucks, Sweet Dispostions Bakery, Venus Nails and Warren’s Station.

We sincerely appreciate the response received from the residents within the community who donated many man-hours, all the baked goods and books for resale. Because of your willingness to pitch in, we had another successful event. Thanks so much for all your support.

Keenwick Sound Fair Committee

yART sale a big hit, thanks to many

We would like to thank all of the wonderful members of our community and visitors for coming out and supporting our annual yART sale. This year was our first for two days, and it was the best year yet. Our raffle raised $2,105 for the Friends of the South Coastal Library.

Thank you to each of the artists for donating such wonderful pieces. We would also like to thank the volunteers from FOSCL for selling tickets: Faith and Paul Denault, Chris Aumiller, Joan and Jack Gordon, and Joan Thomas. Thank you Marco Hernandez, Juan Perez, Eduardo Diaz and Roberto Lopez for the beautiful music played on Saturday.

Many thanks to Peninsula Laminations Limited and Barbara Dietrick for donating the mats for the kids’ art project. And a very big thank-you to Hannah Nichols and Rene Schoellkopf (art teacher from the Salisbury School) for all of your hard work in the children’s tent. Both worked all day, both days, without a break, painting faces and helping the kids make their ocean scene masterpieces.

Thank you again to everyone for making this year such a great success.

Julie and Nick Kypreos
Bethany Beach

Help save the Milton Theatre

We could write a long letter pleading with you to help us save the theater and explaining to you the importance of the theater to the town of Milton and the surrounding areas. However, we know that you know how important it is, and that’s why you’re on our mailing list. You’re smart enough to figure out that if the theater closes, downtown Milton will change, businesses will be hurt, and even the real estate values will suffer.

So, we’re just going to give you the facts:

• The Milton Theatre is scheduled for sheriff’s sale on Sept. 21.

• We intend to save the Milton Theatre and ensure its positive financial future.

• We need to raise a significant amount of money in a very short amount of time in order to save the theatre building. A war chest will enable us to negotiate with the lender over terms of a “buy-back” of the theater building alone.

• We need to provide the lender with hard evidence that the Milton community and beyond are giving us the support we need to save this important cultural asset.

• A local philanthropist has agreed to give us $50,000 and is pursuing matching funds from others in a position to help us attain our goal.

• To date, we have commitments of over $80,000.

• We are open and operating at full capacity, and the theater is booked through mid-November. The show must go on!

• The Milton Development Corporation (The Milton Theatre) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax exempt organization, and donations are tax-deductible.

• The pledges made will be redeemed at the time the purchase of the theater is approved by the current lender. No money is expected at this time, but this pledge is a commitment to provide the funds when the pledge is redeemed.

We are asking for your support and your donation. Whether you can pledge $1,000 or $100, your donation will be important to our success. Will you help? Please call the office with your pledge or send an e-mail to mdc110@verizon.net. Let us know how you help, how much you can give.

Perhaps you’d like one of our board members to give you a call to explain our plans in more detail, or answer any questions. Call the office and let us know, (302) 684-3400.

Please help. Thank you.

Members of the Board of Directors
Milton Development Corporation
(Milton Theatre)

Reader chimes in on Taser policies

I just read with great interest a story about Delmar, Del.’s recent updating of its Taser policy. Having spent over two years researching Tasers, I believe their use should be suspended and their deployment carefully reevaluated.

I further suggest that the decision to incorporate Tasers into the State’s cache of weapons was a flawed decision because it was based on flawed data. The decision to spend taxpayer dollars to purchase and deploy these weapons was based on data collected and disseminated by, and safety claims made by, the device’s manufacturer, which obviously stands to gain by claiming their devices are safe.

The cities of Memphis, San Francisco and Las Vegas have recently banned law-enforcement use of Tasers, for good reason: Tasers are dangerous, their effects are unpredictable and they too often become unintended deadly weapons. Tasers have caused these cities, and many other municipalities and agencies, to pay out large sums of money to injured victims and the families of deceased victims. In May 2010, Taser International itself issued an updated training bulletin with warnings that we should never accept from a weapon claimed to be safe.

In 2009, an independent study of Taser use in over 50 California agencies by Dr. Byron Lee and others concluded that, although Tasers are considered a safer alternative to firearms by some, they were actually associated with a substantial increase in in-custody sudden deaths when first deployed, they brought no decrease in firearm deaths and there was no long-term decrease in serious officer injuries. (During the first year of use in the cities studied, the rate of in-custody deaths increased 6.4 fold, firearm deaths increased 2.3 fold. There was no change in officer injuries compared to the average five years prior to using Tasers.)

Other recent independent research on Tasers has uncovered equally alarming information from real-world deployments. Both Amnesty International and the Canadian government found that previous medical studies on the effects of Tasers were limited in scope and unduly influenced by the weapons’ primary manufacturer, Taser International.

By issuing skewed data, the manufacturer kept users, the medical community and coroners from understanding how dangerous Tasers really are. Growing numbers of Taser deaths and injuries and alarming reports of illegal Taser-torture pain compliance tactics against citizens in the U.S. prompted Amnesty to recommend immediately suspending the use of Tasers and stun guns pending further safety research, or limiting their use to situations where officers would otherwise be justified in resorting to firearms.

But, still, the vast majority of people who are Tasered are unarmed and are not posing an immediate threat which would justify deadly force. We’ve all seen Taser videos that made our skin crawl and incited anger in us. And we’ve listened to users defend and justify the need for Tasering, regardless of the fact that many of the unarmed victims are deliriously under the influence of drugs or alcohol, in dire need of medical or psychiatric help, already in custody and restrained, or running away when they are Tasered.

None of these circumstances calls for deadly force, nor do they call for Tasering. Taser’s own product warnings alert users that in each of these circumstances, for different physiologic reasons, Taser use might be deadly. The truth is, there are already hundreds of cases where Tasers have caused death under each of these circumstances, yet the manufacturer continues to deny it.

Since 1999, over 500 North Americans have died immediately following Taser use. Tasers are now killing an average of five people per month. And no one is counting those who die weeks or months after the fact. I don’t think we’ll ever know the true death toll from Tasers because there has been so much secrecy surrounding their use. But I do know we can no longer allow Taser use to be justified, or victimizations to be explained away, by the people using the devices or the agencies that bought them.

To avoid negative publicity, lawsuits and public outcry when serious injuries and deaths occur, these people have been known to misrepresent the facts. Details surrounding a Taser event often vary greatly between user and victim. It is often only through independent scrutiny or video surveillance that we learn the truth.

If a victim has any residual problems from being Tasered, there is no public record of it. If there is litigation, the victim is advised to not speak publicly until their case has been adjudicated, which sometimes takes years. So the public remains dangerously unaware of injuries and abuses. We only hear of the most obvious injuries and immediate deaths.

And, most unbelievably, when there is a death or serious injury, the current practice is for the Taser user to send the internal data recorder and weapon to the manufacturer who, in turn, downloads the data and evaluates their own product to determine whether it malfunctioned. Simultaneously, a self-investigation is done by the law-enforcement agency, or a comrade-agency, which also interrogates the victim or family of the victim that they harmed or killed.

They issue their statements of “the facts.” And that’s that. What an absurd practice! To learn the whole truth about Tasers, we cannot allow self-investigation to continue. Believing that the whole truth and meaningful statistics will only come from independent, citizens’ oversight, I suggest the following:

First, if they’re going to continue to be used, Taser policies and procedures must be made public, reviewed and adapted to fit societal standards.

Secondly, agencies which use Tasers must be compelled to provide the public they serve with instant, accurate and complete data on who has been Tasered, how many times, where on their person, how long and why. There must be ongoing, open reporting.

Thirdly, use-of-force information should always be included in press releases. Should we not know the means our peace officers are employing to enforce our laws and what levels of force are routinely being used to enforce which laws? Why should this be secret?

Finally, even if Tasers are banned, ongoing follow-up must be conducted to track Taser victims. This information must be gathered in order to learn what the true emotional, medical and social after-shocks are when one is Taser-tortured. Obviously, this data cannot be collected by the Taser users, deploying agencies, manufacturer or while the victim is still in custody and fearful of reprisals.

Who can argue against full disclosure of this information in a free society? Mustn’t accurate use-of-force data be made public and be transparently reported? Without accurate data, how can we be vigilant in overseeing what methods law-enforcement agencies are using to keep the peace and protect our property and our persons?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe we are supposed to be living in a police state, which, by definition, is a state controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises the citizen’s activities. So, should not our peace officers be operating within our current, societal standards?

We must be able to trust that only the minimum amount of force necessary will be used to keep the peace, without infringement of our Constitutional rights. Our founding fathers warned that it would take vigilant oversight to prevent “cruel, unreasonable and arbitrary uses of power or control.” They got us started, and now it’s our duty, both individually and collectively, to guard the liberty we’ve been granted, or we risk losing it.

Andrew Jackson called eternal vigilance by the people “the price of liberty.” Ben Franklin said if we give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety we deserve neither liberty nor safety. We won’t remain free or safe by delegating oversight of those in power to others. We have to pay our dues with careful oversight.

So, be vigilant in seeking facts and creating your own, informed opinion about Tasers. I suggest everyone read Taser International’s latest Law Enforcement Warnings (found at www.Taser.com under the “Research” drop-down menu, click on “Legal”) Then, peruse these two Web sites: http://truthnottasers.blogspot.com/ and http://www.excited-delirium.com/. I think you’ll agree, after you look into it, especially in light of Tasers’ frequent failure rate, that there is no justification for continuing to allow Tasers to be used except as a substitute for deadly force.

Nancy Joseph