A call for tolerance in Wilton

On the eve of an interfaith service calling for unity, and hours after a flyer pronouncing “make America white again” showed up in a Wilton driveway, a 20-year Wilton resident proposed a proclamation to the Board of Selectmen to declare the town a place of tolerance. She spoke at the board’s meeting on Monday, Feb. 6.

“I want to reaffirm our shared belief that diversity enriches us and tolerance, inclusion and civility are core values,” said Heather Wilcauskus, who urged the selectmen to take action on the proclamation at their next meeting.

Only three flyers were reported to have shown up in Wilton driveways, according to police, but as many as 30 were reportedly were found in driveways in neighboring Weston and some were found in Norwalk and Westport as well.

The flyers called for securing “the existence of our race” and the “future of white children” and had a link to a white nationalist website run by “alt-right” extremists.

The FBI has been notified and it is an open investigation that could result in harassment charges.

“I urge you to adopt a proclamation I believe reflects the best of Wilton, the tolerance proclamation,” Wilcauskus said, adding that lately there has been a temptation to let passion overtake civility, especially with regard to the national political scene.

The draft proclamation reads:

“We, the Selectmen of Wilton, Connecticut, do hereby reaffirm our town’s commitment to inclusion, tolerance and civility, especially at this time of increasingly divisive political discourse. We recognize the diversity of our citizens and visitors, whatever their gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, citizenship, political views, or social or economic status.

We resolve to respect and ensure the rights of all our citizens and visitors to participate fully in our community, and for all our citizens to participate fully in its governance. Our commitment to inclusion informs our values and is the basis on which our town will thrive. Diversity enriches us.

We further resolve that the principles of inclusion, tolerance, and civility will guide the actions we take as Selectmen. We resolve to reject policies that threaten or diminish this commitment, or that target or marginalize specific groups. We believe that everyone deserves consideration, compassion and respect. This is what makes Wilton strong. This is who we are.”

The proclamation has received support from the League of Women Voters, the Wilton Democratic Town Committee, and A Better Chance of Wilton, Wilcauskus said.

“We must summon the better angels of our nature. We know children watch us closely and look to us for guidance. It would be wonderful if you proactively lead the way,” she told the selectmen.

A couple of days after the meeting, Wilton High School student Julia Foodman endorsed the proclamation in a letter to the editor.

“As Wilton High School students, we fully endorse this message. Wilton Public Schools are constantly working to benefit school climate and increase tolerance of all people, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or anything else that may make us seem different from one another.  This is not a political belief, but rather a belief of accepting all people, and encouraging students to become individuals in a way that will best allow them to learn and grow into intelligent, functioning members of society,” Julia said in her letter. “We will resist any influence telling us as students to become less tolerant, prejudiced, or discriminatory. We preach acceptance and we refuse to let politics let our community turn on each other.”

Student Cameron Berg also wrote in.

“Students still feel the friction generated by the election; to formally acknowledge the nonpartisan core beliefs of our community would serve as a symbolic, meaningful gesture towards restoring basic civility and a sense of ease to an apprehensive student body. The proclamation’s language doesn’t reflect ideology or political persuasion; it presents a fundamental set of values,” he wrote.

The selectmen did not take any action on the matter but indicated they would take it up at their next meeting, Feb. 27.

Tom Dubin, vice chairman of the Wilton Democratic Town Committee, also expressed support for the tolerance proclamation.

“During periods of deeply felt political debate, we are so much focused on issues that separate us. I do not believe any one civic group has a monopoly on civility, or that any one group achieves those values. To us it is a very American proclamation. The DTC believes it is an important time for the town to share values aloud.”

Editor's Note: This is an updated version of the original story. New information was added.