The “#White Lives Matter” flyers scattered anonymously in the middle of the night on local properties over the last week failed to achieve their apparent goal, Westporters told a forum called on the racially charged messages Sunday.
About 100 people turned out at the forum organized by TEAM Westport at the Westport Library for a candid discussion about the flyers and the broader context of racial and diversity issues that have arisen nationally during the last months.
“To me it was pretty clear that these were not an innocuous prank,” said Westport News columnist and 06880 blogger Dan Woog, who helped guide the discussion. “This was definitely a racist flyer.”
Woog explained that similar flyers scattered in Milford last month had links to racist websites. “It was very clear that this was done by the same people,” he said of the flyers that have been tossed into driveways around town in plastic bags weighted down by stones on at least two separate evenings. Similar flyers were distributed in a Fairfield neighborhood as well.
Andrew Tartaglia of Milford, however, voiced a different view. “I’m not sure I understand the racially charged motive,” he said, rhetorically asking if the flyers had referenced Hispanic lives or Jewish lives, would a similar public forum have been convened.
“Was anybody invited here to educate us about the Constitution (and) freedom of speech?” he said. “To me it was a simple statement. No one was threatened.”
“The problem with it is it’s scary and it’s hard to name why,” explained Beth Negron of Fairfield, who has black relatives. “There’s a fear there of white supremacists (and) I’m not sure I can give you a logical reason.”
“The default position in our culture is that white lives matter,” said the Rev. Alison Patton of Saugatuck Congregational Church, who helped lead the discussion. “It doesn’t need to be restated.”
Police Chief Dale Call, a Westport native, explained that no law had been broken with distribution of the flyers, but that at least one resident had expressed concern.
“What’s most concerning to them is (someone) coming out in the middle of the night . . . Why my driveway? Am I being targeted with these?” he said.
“Why would the time matter?” said Tartaglia, claiming he didn’t understand why people were upset.
Tartaglia said that in December on the Post Road bridge there were demonstrators waving signs that said “Black Lives Matter,” but it didn’t draw concern from the community.
“I don’t remember this media frenzy,” he said. “Is this fair and balanced?”