The following letter was received Sunday afternoon from the office of Del. Pat McDonough:
The theme of the Bel Air Independence Day Parade was supposed to be “American Patriots, Then and Now!” Wow, talk about hypocrisy! Apparently, Michael Blum, Chairman, and the rest of the Parade Committee, don’t have a clue as to what “patriotism” is really all about. Liberty and the Constitutional guarantee of free speech are the foundations of good old U.S.A. patriotism. Chairman Blum and his gang confronted at least three participants in the parade and seized, on one occasion, Delegate Rick Impallaria’s private signs. Blum and company actually yanked these signs from the hands of the children who were carrying them, including a couple of eight year olds.
The reaction from the crowd watching the parade was vitriolic, including shouts of “Sign Nazis or Communists” referring to the sign police. Although those sentiments may be a bit extreme, the crowd was obviously annoyed by Mr. Blum’s antics. The messages that were proclaimed on Delegate Impallaria’s signs were the following: “Support the Constitution,” “Support the Tea Parties,” and “Cut Taxes.” Remember, the theme of the parade was “American Patriots, Then and Now.”
Ironically, on the same day as the parade, more than 500 citizens showed up that morning at a Tea Party in downtown Bel Air. I am sure Chairman Blum was not in attendance at the tea party.
Delegate Impallaria was not the only elected official that Blum and his hit squad harassed during the parade. Prior to the Impallaria incident, Mr. Blum attempted to intimidate me and demanded that I remove my “Speak English” slogan, which was part of my Delegate Pat McDonough signs. I told Mr. Blum that the Constitution was more important to me than his opinion. The signs remained with me throughout the course of the parade, igniting loud cheers and a lively response from the patriotic crowd. I reminded Mr. Blum that my signs had appeared in five previous Bel Air parades without receiving any intimidation from him or anyone else. Moreover, it is important to note that all of the other July 4th parades included signs and slogans from everyone. I had just departed from the Greater Kingsville Parade where not only were the signs welcomed, but the parade officials read them out loud as they passed by the reviewing stand. Apparently, parade officials all around the state support freedom of speech and expression. Mr. Blum has decided to turn Bel Air into a “free speech dead zone.”
Obviously, some type of action must be initiated to prevent this type of ugly incident from occurring again. A number of citizens have come together in order to review the options available, ranging from litigation to protest, and a replacement of Michael Blum with a fellow citizen who understands the true meaning of patriotism, free speech, and America’s birthday on July 4th.
DELEGATE PAT McDONOUGH
Phil Dirt says
Did he take the signs from certain individuals only or were all signs banned? Sounds more like censorship by Blum than hyperbole by McDonough. But I guess that’s what happens when a marketing/PR guy runs a parade – he has a way of getting his own opinions expressed to the targeted audience by any means necessary.
We have reach a sad and dangerous point when people have to politicize even our parades by only letting certain viewpoints be expressed.
The only thing wrong with the parade was the 40 minutes that my kids had to sit and watch an endless series of self-centered, drab, lifeless politicians parade past us single-file with their recycled campaign signs from the last election. If any politician thought the crowd was hotile to them because of the time they were wasting, news-flash: it was.
There should be 2 delegations, one Republican and one Democrat. Each limited to 1 pickup truck (if smart, they’ll put speakers and some lively music in them) and as many people who want to walk behind and pass out buttons/swag as they care to muster. The parade committee should separate both by a band to make it a little less painful for the kids (after all — why else were any of us there) and whichever delegation has the more seated representatives attending can march first. Other than that, if a politician wants to turn participation in the parade as a personal platform for political campaigning and march alone, the committee should make them pay an extra fee just like buying a TV commercial.
Tom Glover says
So let me get this straight, a “Support the Constitution” sign was considered inappropriate in a parade on July 4th, the day on which we are suppose to gather and honor our Founding Fathers, their fortitude, courage, and vision. Chairman Mr.Blum, how truly sad.
Wake up America; we are loosing our liberties and our country.
Phil Dirt says
Del. McDonough said: Remember, the theme of the parade was “American Patriots, Then and Now.”
Response: It is now unpatriotic to be patriotic in Amerika.
Michael Blum and the Bel Air Independence Day Committee have released a letter in response to Del. McDonough’s claims:
This is ridulicious! The fourth of July should not be a place to show your opinion. Im sorry, but I could care less what party your with, MY KIDS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO SIT THROUGH THIS MESS!!!! Both the Bel Air and HDG parades were horrible because we had to sit through every council person in a car wave! I understand that this is the 4th of July parade, but seriously. We are out there to be united, enjoy FAMILY and have a good time. I could care less about social and political issues. They used this as a platform for THEIR own views and opinions, and this is not the time nor the place. For one day out of the year, can we just be united as a COUNTRY!!!!!!! Also, please bring back more bands and less cars!
I think what these Delegates don’t realize is that the contract they signed was legally binding and with their signature they revoked their rights to hold those ofensive signs. Regardless Independence Day is about thanking our forefathers and foremothers for what they have done to insure the exsistence of our nation. It is not about making a cheap political point. I don’t care how old you are those signs were offensive as were your slogans of Speak English or Go Home. In conclusion sir you must respect the contract you signed and remember the people who come to America looking for the freedoms that you enjoy.
“Did he take the signs from certain individuals only or were all signs banned? ”
All rule breakers were reprimanded. In his letter he writes how other Republicans who followed the rules were allowed to have their signs. And both parties who did not have appropriate signs were allowed to use tape to cover the inappropriate parts. Both Kratovil and Harris did this method. He wasn’t trying to censor any particular political belief, he was just following the rules.
The Communicator says
People often confuse or do not understand the definition of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech does not give you, me or anyone else the freedom to say what we want, where we want, whenever we want. I cannot walk into a shopping mall and pontificate my beliefs. If the participants of the parade signed a contract, then both sides must adbide by the terms of the contract. It cannot be changed for lack of understanding, convenience or any other reason, unless the second party allows the contract to be amended or decides not to enforce the contract.
Delagate McDonough, Don’t blame Michael Blum, he has a responsiblity as the chairman of the parade to enforce the contract and run a family friendly parade. I suggest you study the true definition of freedom of speech.
Delegate Dan Riley says
All July 4 parades, in Harford County, have the same basic rules. You cannot promote yourself for an upcoming election or a cause. Many of us do use old campaign signs making sure we cover up words such as ELECT, RE-ELECT, VOTE FOR, etc. Maybe the reason we elected officials are in front of the parade is to save the good stuff for last.
The reason only “Elected Officials” are allowed to participate in the parades is we are the legal representatives of the people. I personally consider it to be a high honor. Breaking the rules sends out a message about these politicians. By the way rules were violated in another parade. In the Edgewood parade Art Helton (D) and Glen Glass (R) had signs promoting their candidacy and issues. Delegate Rick Impallaria drove Glen Glass’s truck. Rick has been in enough parades to know the rules.
Is this the way they will behave in office? Follow the rules when it suits them or break the rules when it is to their personal gain.
Rules are rules. Personally I hate going to the parades as they have become litered with politicians. If I wanted that I would have taped all the Sept-Nov TV comercials and watch them over again at home. I want to see fire trucks, HS bands, A crazy guy on a truck singing “Proud to Be From Harford County”….I want to see these things that is what makes it fun for me and my family not politicians in cars. Spread them out so I do not get them all in my face all the time.
Steve Wright says
Del. Rick Impallaria signs that were taken by Blum included:
“Del. Impallaria supports the Tea Parties”
“Stop the Spending!”
“Stop the Taxing!”
One of my views, is that these thoughts and ideals help define “American independence!”
Those signs were used and praised in the Kingsville Parade…
Those signs were used in the Edgewood Parade, with no problem.
Mr. Blum handles the Bel Air parade different than other jurisidictions do.
Wow – leave it to the bumblers who have made a mess of our delegation to try to tell Bel Air how to run their parade. The 4th of July is a glorious celebration and is a great day for the Town of Bel Air. Congratulations and thanks to Mike Blum and all of the VOLUNTEERS who put this huge, all day, event together to honor our country and our town. To keep this organized must be a huge task.. Remember, for every politician or group leader that may express a position that you agree with, there are probably dozens that would express views you might not take as kindly to, and once you start down that slippery slope… Any elected official worth having in office would know and respect this.
The “Speak English” signs were greeted with boos from me and many around me during the parade last year.
Craig DeRan says
While I disagree with Delegate McDonough’s message, there’s a larger point here. Delegate McDonough is correct that he has been permitted to carry the same issue-based signs in past years. Yes, he clearly violated the rules, but he had cause to believe that he would be allowed to do the same thing he has in the past. I don’t blame him for trying to get away with it again.
This issue shows how difficult it becomes to enforce restrictions on speech. For example, Rule 3.d states, “No participant will be permitted to display material advertising any candidacy for public office, nor shall there be any campaigning along the parade route. THIS RULE WILL BE STRICTLY ENFORCED.” Baloney. This Rule is routinely flouted by elected officials, who do more than simply announce their names and offices in the route. Of course they bring their campaign signs and scores of campaign-T-shirt-wearing supporters to wave them. Meanwhile, someone who wants to unseat an incumbent has to cover up his or her candidacy, or not enter the parade at all. If you think it’s bad now, just wait until next year with an election looming.
If Chairman Blum and his committee have recently decided to tighten up their enforcement of their own Rules, good for them and I wish them good fortune. But let’s not pretend that the “no campaigning” rules have been strictly enforced over the years. It’s just not true. It’s a shame that Delegate McDonough’s speech had to be the test case to bring this issue to a head. But if the Committee does not have the personnel to inspect and approve every sign, then maybe it should consider opening up the parade to all candidates, whatever their message may be. Let the people judge whether they like it or not. That’s as American and patriotic as you can get.
Dave – just like I am sure you were one the few brave O’Malley supporters, others, including Del. McDonough have the right to freedom of speech.
“Speak English” signs cater to the lowest common denominator.
Delegate McDonough is pandering to the same. Populist B.S.!
Banastre Tarleton says
Isn’t it ironic that a man holding a sign forcing others to speak in a way he finds agreeable is complaining about having his own freedom of speech denied?
Well said, Mr. Tarleton.
Craig DeRan says
Great point, Banastre. I should also say that although I don’t begrudge Del. McDonough his attempt to continue violating a previously-unenforced rule, he should have acted more maturely when somebody finally called him on it. We should expect our elected officials to manage conflict a little better. However, it’s clear that he holds the “Speak English” sign to intentionally provoke a reaction and then plays the martyr when someone objects.
Bel Air Citizen says
A “Speak English” sign is disgusting to me and your rationalization behind it–that parades are publicly funded opportunities to express free speech are ridiculous. If the parade organizers decided to make the speech bilingual–you certainly would have had plenty to say about that and tried to prevent that even though it is their free speech to do so. As the US has no officially mandated language, why not change all of the signs in Bel Air to Spanish and English.
If Harford COunty wants to remain backwards and redneck, it should continue with such ideas. Just don’t be surprised when the county goes into a financial, educational, and cultural tailspin the future because it was too busy looking at the past to see the future and prepare and embrace for it. The US will be “majority-minority” by 2050. Get over it, hillbillies, diversity is here to stay!
vietnam vet says
Jose franciso Jimenez. Mexican American. his only dream was to be treated like and American. Died fighting in vietnam, attached too the 3rd Battalion 7 th marines. awarded the medal of honor. at the cost of his life so others could live.
Semper-Fi Jose you are not forgotten.
Rules Rules Rules…Everybody follow the rules. I’m so sick of everything having too be politically correct. I’m so sick of everybody being offended by everything. Everybody needs to get over this retarded obsession with not offending anyone. What a country of spineless nannies we’re turning into.
Reasonable debate and discussion and expressing viewpoints in a non-violent way are perfectly acceptable. Hate mongering and violence is not. You may not like my opinion and I may not like yours but good men and women have died to ensure we have the right to those opinions and the expression thereof.
In America English is our native language. It’s not unreasonable to expect people who come here to live learn to speak English. No one is saying you can’t speak French or Spanish but the common tongue here happens to be English. I didn’t say “kill the Mexicans” or Spanish sucks” I just believe you should learn the language. It’s not unreasonable to express that view point. It doesn’t mean I hate Mexicans or the French or whoever.
Do I think “Speak English” was an appropriate sign for the parade? Personally no, but it’s not the English thing that burns me.
The thing that really burns me about this is that signs like “Support the Constitution,” “Support the Tea Parties “and” Cut Taxes” Are all very American. These are the same slogans that drove us to become a nation in the first place. “Give me liberty or give me death” is perfectly acceptable in a 4th of July parade – these are the principles our country was founded on. Maybe some folks have forgotten that or don’t think it applies anymore.
How can any American in good conscience be offended by “Support the Constitution”? Why would any civic organization want to make “rules” that restrict the right to express such an opinion?
Please don’t respond with the argument “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre”. You CAN actually yell that, but if you cause a panic you will be held accountable. Please don’t respond with “well why don’t we let the KKK march in the Parade” We’re not talking about fostering hate groups or reinstating slavery. We’re talking about reasonable and debatable issues – Taxes, adherence to the Constitution and whether we should speak English or Spanish.
I don’t want higher taxes, I don’t want anyone trampling the freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution and I don’t want to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish or any other language. Why would these opinions be offensive to another American?
What say you?
I simply want to go to a parade where for one day I can celebrate the fact that I am an american and not have 50 ideas thrown down my throat and told I am unamerican or made to fell that way for disagreeing with them. Until recently the Bel Air Parade has provided that atmosphere. The politicians are a minor annoyance but the majority elected them so I tolerated them. They have now taken away from the fun parts of a parade. They detract from the celebration and that is why I have a problem. Campaign the other days on the 4th of July be a symbol that we have the right to vote in fair elections in this country. I may or may not like you but you won. Let us celebrate that.
Bel Air Citizen,
I don’t like the “Speak English” signs either, but please don’t call Harford Countians rednecks and hillbillies. Del. McDonough is entitled to his opinion, but he isn’t from Harford County. He’s from Baltimore. That’s why he says Blair instead of Bel Air and wooder instead of water. (Maybe he should master English at some point.)
But back to you Bel Air Citizen. Why do you choose to live here if you say we’re “backwards?”
Mike Perrone Jr. says
Regardless of the “rules” or how strictly they’ve been enforced over the years, how could a message like “Support the Constitution” be construed as support for a particular cause or issue? There are two sides to many stories, but not this one. The Constitution is the foundation upon which our country is built. To undermine it is to undermine everything our country stands for. To support it is to support everything our country stands for.
What message could be any more appropriate for an Independence Day parade?
Phil Dirt says
I find the calling of “Speak English” signs hateful more more hateful than the “Speak English” signs themselves.
We are reaching the point where only certain viewpoints are acceptable and the others should be banned simply as wrong. One side gets to express opinions in the name of free speech while the other is shouted down for hate speech. Do a little research on the numerous issues with speakers on college campuses, and the vast difference between the treatment of those on the right and those on the left. Can anyone honestly tell me that their rights are protected equally? This is a preview of what is slowly occuring throughout our society, and the examples presented here are no different.
I’m still not sure how I feel about all this. Is it his freedom of speech or is it a publicity stunt? I don’t know but it does have everyone talking about it.
My problem is the people who are saying that the politicians are boring or that the kids are bored with them being in the parade. For the children, maybe while the parade of cars is coming down the street, we could take the time to explain to the them who these people are, that it is their civic duty to vote, and if, when they grow up, they don’t like the way the government is run, they could be the person in the parade, making a difference in society. To the adults, if the politicians didn’t put themselves out there, spend their whole July 4th riding in parades, to be cheered and jeered, there would be an outcry that the politicians aren’t out among the people.
I am not a big fan of politicians but I do vote because I think it’s important. I also think it’s important to teach our children about our government.
AT very true. Great Points and a valid use of the politicians in parades.
You also bring up the possibility of a stunt. If this is a “stunt” Then I would suggest he think if it might backfire.
I am a 7th District resident. Last election I voted for him (priority 2) even though I did not agree with many of his ideals because I saw a candidate who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when the cards are down and inspired lively debate amongst his collegues. I see that as a part of this however; to presist down the road with the mob leading mentality which is obvious in his support letters; because of the obvious use of talking points by people who do not reside in his district or Harford County. This is making me lean towards him being just crazy and I will not be sure I can give him my vote when given a viable alternative.
I do not think I am alone and It might be a puric victory. He gets the rules changed but lose his elected seat. Alot will be determined by how far he continues to go with this. He seems to me to continue to beat up on a bunch of civic volunteers. Impellaria seems to be doing a much better PR job in my mind with this.
Land of the free????? says
Rules Rules Rules!!!!!!!! This is our country people and we are granted free speech it does not matter what your opinion is or what the signs say because we are or should be individuals that can form an educated opinion and take a stance and defend it intelligently and we should respect that there are going to be others who disagree hopefully because they are intelligent and educated on the topic and not just because the side they are taking is the one of their political party or just following their favorite celebrities lead. News flash you can be for different topics that are near and dear to your heart from each party you don’t need to be red or blue. And just because the media sold us all on red state and blue states we don’t need to fit into that stereo type just to make their jobs easy.
The process is what is beautiful. Think about the freedoms we enjoy and the ones we have lost because of ridiculous rules / laws. What some of you are saying is that it is no big deal that we cant speak our mind and that’s what people say about other rights that we willingly give up. We should be standing up shaking our fists that we live in the land of the free!!!!!!! And we should celebrate that we have a government that changes hands every 4 or 8 years PEACEFULY just look at the news the past few weeks and look at what Iran was going thru. Get up off your butts and be part of the WE, WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES the constitutions does not begin with I the Person. This is your county educate your kids on what the signs say and why there is such an up roar over them. We take life like it is supposed be a vacation and always sunny and happy that’s how we got so many ignorant people because their heads are in a bag. I took the time on the 4th of July teaching my 2year old about our Independence Day and the importance of it. When My town and some PR guy spent that day censoring some one else’s right to express his feelings that his constituents agree with other wise he would not be in office. I think we are all owed an apology from our town and Mr. Blum.
Mr. Blum owes nobody an apology. He was instructed to follow the parade rules, rules which were in place years before him, and were never a problem, until Pat McDonough decided to break them and cry oppression, which is ridiculous. Being asked to not display a political rheotoric sign for one day during a family event is not oppression. McDonough and his ilk who are taking up his cause have no idea what real oppression means.
Dot’s right! He vas only followink orders. Ve haf places for Mr. McDonough und his kind!
Greg Burton says
Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791. Note
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Since public funds are used for this event. And the event is in a public place the 1st Amendment must be followed. The freedom of speech may not be abridged.
The rules must be changed.
Greg Burton says
You are wrong. Why would you deprive someone their FREEDOM of SPEECH as written in the United States Constitution.
If the Bel Air Group wants to have a private event, in a private place, and not use any public funds for their event then they are free to set rules which limit the free express.
Blum and other Maryland’s demoncrats want to keep the dissenting voices quite.
Greg Congress made no law in this case. A Private Non Profit made a rule. They had a permit. We covered this before.
Greg Burton says
Due to the fact that public monies are used for the event, they must comply with the federal constitution. They can not abridge the freedom of speech.
If this rule is challenged in court, the rule would be ruled unconstitutional.
What money is used? The town of Bel Air does not run the parade.
While this is from last year the point still stands.
Bel Air Auxiliary Police Unit
Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, Inc.
Town of Bel Air
Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation
Lions Club of Bel Ail
At the bottom of the page, the following statement is written, as clear as day:
“Note: we “count” sponsors as having donated or pledged money or in-kind during a specific cycle, leading up to each July 4. Therefore the above list supported the activities of July 4, 2008. Corrections have been made to listings in the program, which went to print on June 19, 2008.”
This is from last year, but the point stands.
But the town of Bel Air is simply donating money to a non-profit not cordinating the activity!
Joseph Caruso says
Cdev – Whenever the government donates, provides or spends funds on an event then that event is in whole or in part government funded.
I posted a set of links from parade rules in the “Legal Action” article. It appears Bristol, RI, Arlington, TX, and Wheaton, IL all recieve money from the town just like Bel Air and all have rules about signs and speech allowed by floats and politicians. Rules with Similar intent as Bel Air and in many cases more generally written. I got these from a search on Bing for “4th of July Parade Rules”
J. Kevin Michel says
Hmmm. If we are going to allow defined political speech at the parade, then by the same theory, we are OBLIGATED to seek opposing points of view. Gee! Wouldn’t that be fun! Let’s make every activity in a public place, a forum for RADICAL political debate. I’m sure our children would find that incredibly stimulating.
I think we should BAN politicians from 4th of July parades. Along with all their expressions of free speech.Llet them fund their own political rallys in places I don’t have to see them, and add more young gymnasts, fire companies and utility trucks, and lots of military support floats to the parades. I don’t need the politicos blocking my view of the important stuff, like the Bel Air High school marching band.
Greg Burton says
No you are wrong, an organization is not required to seek opposing points of view, however imposing limits on free speech is a violation of the United States Constitution.
Seems like only the Liberals wish to impose limits on Free Speech. In the one party state of Maryland the Democrats have proven how they poorly manage our state. Why would you want to limit someone from saying how wrong the elected officials are. Maybe they can change enough people so the tide can change in Annapolis and at least have a real two party system.
Greg but a non-profit can not be seen endorsing a point of view!
Greg Burton says
The non-profit is not endorsing a point of view, when they accept pubic funding they can not limit free speech.
When they give them a forum and not someone else they are indirectly doing that which is part of the code.
Joseph Caruso says
Cdev – Are you out of your mind?
Greg Burton says
you said: “When they give them a forum and not someone else they are indirectly doing that which is part of the code.’
You continue to be wrong. The organization does not need to seek the views they simply can not limit the free expression of participants.
All of the posters that participants had were legal.
You seem to fear the sharing of ideas which will limit government’s authority.
I have no fear of sharing ideas but the 4th of July parade was not thaat forum. If the non profit allows one candidate a forum to advocate their election and does not invite the other candidate then it is wrong.
Dave Yensan says
Cdev is out of his mind.
I suspect the same. I’m worried that CDEV may be a danger to himself…
ted r. says
Lets invite all the candidates and then no one will have to be excluded.
ted r. if that was done then it would be legal for them to let anyone have the signs they want. But…….they didn’t and in my opinion shouldn’t I dont want to attend a parade that is a giant campaign commercial. As I said before…if I wanted to do that I would Tivo those comercials and watch them over again.