Letter: Anti-hate march was successful with help from Wilton police

To the Editor:

On Nov. 11, Susan Cutler and I organized a March Against Hate in Wilton, the main purpose of which was to deliver an alternative message to the recent incidents at Middlebrook School that troubled so many people.

One of the underlying missions of the march was to be inclusive — that is, to attempt to work collaboratively with the town, its religious and social leaders, the Board of Education, and other individuals and groups to ensure that we offered a legitimate response that was as affirmative and constructive as possible.

The purpose of this letter, however, is to comment and reflect upon my relationship before, during and after the march with the Wilton Police Department.

Working in cooperation with the Wilton Police Department for the March Against Hate was an important goal.

A week or so before the march, I met with Chief John Lynch and several of his officers to go over the plan, its route, projected numbers of marchers, and where we were allowed to march. I found the meeting collaborative, helpful, constructive, and affirmative.

Lt. David Hartman was assigned as a liaison to work with me and called me at least twice in the week leading up to the march. We conferred about what the projected number of marchers was looking like and we continued to discuss the best route for the march.

The day before the march, Lt. Hartman advised me that he would not be working on the day of the march but that the department was fully briefed on the details and that officers on duty would be in and around the march.

A half-hour before the march, a police officer approached me at the train station to ask how things were going and to review the planned route. It was obvious that the number of marchers had exceeded projections.

During the march, many marchers mentioned that they noticed the police presence, which was unobtrusive and at a respectful distance.

When co-leader Susan Cutler and I turned the march to cross River Road at a difficult crosswalk, an observing officer immediately exited his vehicle to direct traffic and assist the marchers to cross the road safely. Another officer at the rear of the march was seen assisting and calling for an ambulance to help an elderly marcher who had fallen.

Several days after the march, I received a follow-up voicemail from Lt. Hartman to inquire how I felt the march had gone, whether I felt it was successful and if there was any feedback that would be helpful for him to take back to the department.

Both for the marchers and the feedback I and Susan and many of the marchers received after the fact, it was indeed a success in terms of delivering an alternative message against hate and bigotry in Wilton.

Importantly, the Wilton Police Department played a supportive and collaborative role in helping us accomplish this goal. To that end, the entire Wilton community wins.
Scott Milnor
Langner Lane, Weston
Nov. 21