Under pressure, N. Brookfield selectmen postpone July 4 parade

If Black Lives Matter protesters can march down the streets, why not a July 4 parade?

That was the argument being made by selectmen in North Brookfield, a small Worcester-area town with an unusually public rift between the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Health over whether to hold a community gathering despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Or at least, it was the argument being made until Tuesday night when the selectman postponed the celebration – blaming the Board of Health. “For overtly hypocritical and purely political reasons, the (Board of Health) opposed this small event as a serious public health threat,” the selectmen wrote in a news release quoted by the Telegram & Gazette.

“The Board of Selectmen are cognizant of the incendiary times in which we are living and unlike the members of the Board of Health who seem arbitrarily concerned with public health only when it fits their political ideology, we will not expose our residents to the public health and public safety risks artificially created by the BOH’s unconstitutional silencing of the free expression of their neighbors,” they wrote.

Even the postponement was not without confusion. WCVB-TV reported Tuesday night that the Board of Selectmen posted on Facebook that they were postponing the event. The selectmen wrote that they envisioned an event with fewer than 250 town residents, and they blamed the Board of Health for alerting the news media – which effectively invited thousands of potential visitors to the town and created a public health risk. However, WCVB reported that the post had been taken down, and it was unclear whether the event was actually being postponed.

It is still not clear when and if the event will be rescheduled.

The Telegram & Gazette first reported on Sunday that the three-member board of selectmen had approved the town’s first-ever July 4 celebration, complete with a parade, beer garden, children’s events, and a laser show. The move came as other cities and towns are cancelling their major events, from July 4 fireworks to the Big E fair in West Springfield.

“The position of the board on this issue is if Black Lives Matter can protest down the center of Main Street, on the sidewalk, all on top of each other, and congregate on a church common, all on top of each other, then the people of North Brookfield can march separated down Main Street onto the Town Common,” Selectmen Chairman Daley Kiley said at a public meeting. Kiley told the Telegram & Gazette that he believes fears of COVID-19 are overblown.

In response, the North Brookfield Board of Health publicly condemned the event and said any liability should fall on the Board of Selectmen.

The Boston Globe reported that Board of Health member Ethan Melad said at a meeting the planned gathering “poses a serious health risk” to residents while violating state guidelines.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive order prohibits large, organized recreational gatherings and events like street festivals, although it allows outdoor gatherings for the purpose of political expression – like the recent Black Lives Matter protests. Kiley told the Globe he believes July 4 events are protected by a First Amendment right to free assembly.

Baker, asked about the issue at a press conference Tuesday, said, “large gatherings come with consequences.”

“It’s our hope most folks don’t do big large July 4 gatherings, and for the most part across the Commonwealth, they’re not,” Baker said. Baker said the Department of Public Health has been talking to the North Brookfield select board and public health department, and he hopes town officials will acknowledge that their planned celebration violates state gathering rules.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG


BEACON HILL

The Massachusetts House passes a bill to create a commission to study racial differences in the rates of women dying from pregnancy or childbirth complications. (MassLive)

Boston Globe columnist Jon Chesto reports a labor-backed group is pressing the Senate to raise taxes, but few expect that to happen.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston will remove a statue that depicts a freed slave kneeling at President Abraham Lincoln’s feet. (Associated Press) WGBH’s Saraya Wintersmith spoke with members of the commission that voted on the removal.

A Springfield police detective is fired after posting a pro-Black Lives Matter post to her personal instagram account. (MassLive)

The Springfield police are facing questions about a photo they took with 200 officers and no masks. (MassLive)

Tuesday marked the expiration date for nearly every Boston police union contract. (Boston Herald)

The coronavirus pandemic has expanded the Brockton-based Cape Verdean Association’s responsibilities, from organizing youth programs and English classes to funding and distributing a welfare system for immigrants excluded by more formal bureaucracies. (The Enterprise)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The COVID-19 testing supply chain is at the breaking point, and could be overwhelmed by outbreaks in the South and West. (The Atlantic)

Emails and updates from federal health agencies to Massachusetts officials during the first three months of the year downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and set back efforts to prepare for the disease. (WBUR)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveils a climate action plan with the goal of zero emissions by 2050. The federal goal matches state goals set by Gov. Charlie Baker and contained in a Senate bill that is sitting in the House. (Associated Press)

The European Union opens its borders to visitors from 15 countries, but the US, Brazil, and Russia are not in the list. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Amy McGrath of Kentucky and John Hickenlooper of Colorado win their Democratic primaries for the US Senate, and will square off against Republican incumbents Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner, respectively. (New York Times)

Natick’s non-election: Every candidate for town office ran unopposed in Tuesday’s election. (MetroWest Daily News)

Ballot proposals for ranked choice voting and changes to the right-to-repair law are getting closer to getting on the November ballot. (Gloucester Daily Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Black people looking at apartments were discriminated against by real estate agents in an undercover investigation conducted by Suffolk University Law School. (Boston Globe)

Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung on two groups raising money to address racial inequities: “We need to have a paradigm shift in power. Yes, white folks need to be at the table. But for once, they don’t need to act like they own the damn table, too. This is a moment when the white people in charge should cede the stage when it comes to eliminating systemic racism. They’ve already had their shot to figure out, and yet, here we are, still.”

Pay cuts for millions of US workers worsen the pain of the pandemic. (Washington Post)

Yarmouth’s Board of Selectmen took no action Tuesday to reverse a recent vote not to locally enforce state restrictions within the governor’s phased-in reopening plan related to businesses. (Cape Cod Times)

EDUCATION

MassLive has a comprehensive Q&A about what returning to school will likely look like this fall. The American Academy of Pediatrics says schools should reopen to avoid hurting student development.

The future of the Wamp as the symbol of Braintree High School is the subject of opposing petition drives. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Boston police force is getting whiter even as the city’s population is getting less so. (Boston Globe)

Witnesses say the police were intentionally slow to intervene after an assault at a Black Lives Matter protest in Salem. (The Salem News) Meanwhile, two Worcester men arrested at a June 1 protest say the police improperly seized their phones. (Telegram & Gazette)

The police are investigating an incident in Groveland where a black resident said a white man in a car followed her and confronted her. (Eagle-Tribune)

MEDIA

Vinay Mahra is stepping down as president of Boston Globe Media Partners after three years on the job. His departure was announced by Linda Henry, the company’s managing director. (Boston Globe)

The New York Times says it will uppercase Black and lowercase white and brown.