Submitted by Joanna Swomley and Nerlyn Pierson,Co-Founders, Indivisible Greenwich
Our Police Chief Jim Heavey recently wrote an op-ed (“A negativity Inoculation,” May 3, 2021) for the Greenwich Sentinel in which he advocated that there should be “no politics in public.”
Indeed, “the next time you feel the urge to [speak], keep it to yourself” unless the forum is “explicitly political,” whatever that means. He further claimed that protestors (“people [who] fill the street”) “often” do so to
“agitate” “sometimes causing even more discord and injury and damage.”
Having the highest-ranking member of the Greenwich police force come out against free political speech and assembly no matter the context or reason is chilling, dangerous and requires a response. Chief Heavey is
duty bound to secure and protect our civil liberties, yet he instructs us to restrict our political speech in order to attain his view of a “civil” society. We do so at our peril. The truth is that there has never been a more important
time in our history for us to have a public and civil political discourse about our country, our democracy and our way of life.
On January 6, 2021 this country faced an insurrection premised on a lie designed to undue the rule of law and replace our constitutional democracy with an authoritarian government. That attempt continues to this day. This
unalterable fact cannot and must not be swept under the rug or confined to backroom whispers. Quite to the contrary, we must publicly discuss what happened, why it happened, who caused it to happen and what we plan to
do as a country to make sure it never happens again. Chief Heavey may consider that work “agitation” but most of us would label it democracy at work.
Chief Heavey is of course entitled to his personal views and should be as free to air them as anyone else, but he must do so as an individual and not presented, as the Sentinel has done, in full uniform in his role of the Chief
of Police. In that role he is duty bound to secure and protect our civil liberties, and that includes free speech and the right to (peacefully) take to the streets.
If our country and our community is to survive the ongoing assault on our democracy, of which the January 6 th insurrection is only one part, then tough discussions need to be had in public, politicians will need to be held
to account and truth will need to be spoken to power. Staying silent is not the answer.