You can’t give the authorities license for lawlessness—you have to protest. It might seem ineffective on the surface, but this approach does eventually put a stop to terror and abuse of power. And most importantly, it protects the individual from coercion.
—Sergei Kovalev, ex-prisoner of the Kolyma gulag
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves...
—Henry David Thoreau
The book to the right, Transcendental Trinkets, includes poems, essays, and cartoons all pertinent to my Walden experiences ($9). Oddly, via OK Cupid, a dating site, the judge who heard my case, Judge Janet L. Sanders, visited me in Barnstable on Cape Cod in 2015. We walked on the beach, then had a nice talk at my house with a glass of wine. She had had earlier business at the Barnstable County Courthouse. Somehow I later discovered she was the judge, so sent her a copy of Transcendental Trinkets... and never heard from her again. LOL! For our correspondence, see The Judge. Now, if she had at least been willing to discuss the points I'd made regarding the case, including her shameful indifference at the time to the prime concern of FREEDOM OF SPEECH, I would not have posted the correspondence.
Looking back a decade later, it still saddens me that I could not interest any of Concord's poets, librarians, teachers, professors, lawyers, selectpersons, chamber of commerce functionaries or cultural council apparatchiks regarding my arrest and incarceration in Concord for exercising free speech in Concord.
Would Thoreau have been offended to learn that I, resident of Concord, was arrested and incarcerated (9/1/99) for criticizing the STATE on the grounds of his beloved Walden Pond? Perhaps he would not have been surprised, but I sure as hell was.
FACT: Judge Janet L. Sanders, at Concord District Courthouse, dismissed the prosecutor's case against me.
FACT: Swearing in public is not a crime in the state of Massachusetts.
FACT: The arresting cop got double-time pay for appearing in court.
In a Concord jail cell, I spent four long hours for having had a non-violent dispute with a park ranger. Compare that with the absence of hours spent in jail by Senator-for-Life Teddy Kennedy (now defunct) after having driven drunk, crashed a car, caused involuntary homicide, left the scene of a fatal accident, and failed to report it until 12 hours later. This, however, is Massachusetts, where the millionaire politicians call themselves public servants and demand unequal treatment before the law... and get it.
Three months later and many hours spent in the Concord District Courthouse, I was finally given the choice between a jury trial and all charges dismissed, despite the STATE prosecutor’s fervent desire to prosecute and put me behind bars for a longer period of time. Because I lacked faith in juries, could not interest the ACLUM at all (“Where the hell is the ACLU?” had wondered Lenny Bruce), and could not find a lawyer with ideals, I chose to have the charges dismissed. Judge Sanders accorded me that choice, but refused to answer my questions as to why my automobile had been impounded and why I’d been arrested and incarcerated in the first place. Silence was all I’d gotten from State authorities, including those at Walden Pond, with the exception of a letter informing that it was against state law to post criticism of Walden Pond authorities at Walden Pond. Mind-boggling! Nearly a decade of perseverance later, I obtained further responses and bumped into the Supreme Court’s decision in Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization (1939), which seems to counter the state's ban on posting regulation for public parks. Where to find pro bono legal council??? Aiuta, per favore!
In any case, would Thoreau have been offended to learn a State trooper sent by State-Park Reservation authorities had accosted me on those grounds nine months later (5/17/00) to inform he would arrest and fine me if I continued leaving my flyers in the Thoreau replica shack at Walden Pond State Reservation? Would Thoreau have been offended to learn a State trooper on horseback half a year after that (9/7/00) had literally pushed me off the pond grounds with his horse's snout because I’d simply asked a park attendant why he did not believe in the First Amendment? The attendant argued my wish to exercise free speech was an instance of harassment.
Would Thoreau have been offended to see the Shop at Walden souvenir boutique, operated by Thoreau Society, selling tee-shirts and trinkets in his memory, not to mention a censored C-Span tape of Gandhi’s grandson speaking about “Civil Disobedience” in Concord? THOREAU WAS NOT A SOCIETY, NOR SHOP! THOREAU WAS A DISSIDENT! read the sign I'd held up for several seconds in front of the camera during that speech. C-Span simply blotted it out of the tape. Amazing, but true! A brief account of the arrest and incarceration forms part of W. Barksdale Maynard's Walden Pond: A History. Maynard's account, however, is somewhat flawed. I brought it to his attention, noting he should have mentioned that the judge threw the case out and that in accord with Massachusetts law, I did not break any laws at all. Indeed, swearing in public is not illegal in the state of Massachusetts. Thus, why was I even arrested? And why was I swearing in the first place? " You didn’t even express interest. Why do Walden Pond State Reservation authorities to this day still refuse to permit me to post flyers on its 'public' property?"
For other opinions, details and documents (police reports, towing receipt et al) regarding the above events, click on the following links and see below:
1. Concord Police Reports & Towing Receipt
2. Transcendental Trinkets (Highly critical open letters by the editor to Henry David Thoreau, poems, essays, broadsides, watercolors, and cartoons)
4. Essay: The Price of Free Speech: The Courthouse
6. Some pertinent Thoreau quotes you likely will not read in Shop at Walden Pond
Equally offensive is the Police Barracks set up next to the Shop at Walden boutique. How many officers believe in “Civil Disobedience”? As for the bronze statue, cite Thoreau himself:
“We shall lose one advantage of a man’s dying if we are to have a statue of him forthwith… at this rate they will crowd the streets with them. A man will have to add a clause to his will, ‘No statue to be made for me.’ It is very offensive to me to see the dying stiffen into statues at this rate.”
One must wonder if the bulk of Thoreau Society members have ever read Thoreau, that is, in between the lines of his descriptions of nature. Statues, trinket shops, censorship, and suppression of free speech were not Thoreau ideals, gentlemen and women society members! And what does Thoreau state about "gentlemen" and civility?
“Men are so generally spoiled by being so civil and well-disposed. You can have no profitable conversation with them… It is possible for a man to wholly disappear and be merged in his manners. The thousand and one gentlemen with whom I meet, I meet despairingly and but to depart from them, for I am not cheered by the hope of any rudeness from them. A cross man, a coarse man, an eccentric man, a silent, a man who does not drill well,-of him there is some hope. Your gentlemen, they are all alike. They utter their opinions as if it was not a man that uttered them.”
And what about criticism spoken or even hollered in public? Well, it is not a crime in the State of Massachusetts, though one can still be incarcerated for it, as I was, at the mere whim of a democracy-scorning cop!
The U.S. Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that individuals have a right to question police officers, even if police officers find the speech that they use to be offensive. Police officers don't have the right to be censors.
—Attorney Jason Huber
Indeed, the law clearly stipulates the police must not be permitted to arrest and incarcerate citizens for harsh criticism spoken in public. They must not be permitted to proclaim such speech "disorderly conduct," as Officer Crosby did mine. Judges must not only throw out such cases, as one did mine, but must also castigate police and prosecutors who bring such cases to court, which was not done in my case. Moreover, police must not be permitted to impound the automobiles of those charged with harsh criticism spoken in public. Yet free speech in the Commonwealth cost me not only much time and anxiety, but also $95 to retrieve my car, which was not at all illegally parked. Officer Crosby knew damn well what he was doing: acting as judge and jury, fining me $95.
When behind bars in Concord, I was refused the right to a phone call, toilet paper, and blanket. What kind of town has Concord become? The ordeal was a Gestapo-Kafkan nightmare propagated by a faceless Walden Pond park ranger and policeman with nothing better to do than to lock up a non-violent citizen. Had that Ranger even read Thoreau, that is, in between the nature descriptions? Or did he simply not give a damn about the DISSIDENT THOREAU? And if he didn’t, why the hell was he employed at Walden Pond? Why does he wish to remain ignorant of the following State of Massachusetts jurisprudence?
1. Commonwealth vs. Smith (1850): “It is no offense against the law to utter loud cries and exclamations in the public streets...”
2. Commonwealth vs. Le Pore (1996): “Conduct must disturb through acts other than speech; neither a provocative nor a foul mouth transgresses statute.” Nothing in the officer’s report indicated that I was doing anything but speaking. Also, a person is deemed disorderly if, “with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm, or recklessly creating risk thereof... by act which serves no legitimate purpose of actor.” Any language I used was used with purpose and in the name of POLITICAL free expression.
3. Commonwealth vs. Johnson (1994): “Mere use of obscenities in public does not make out crime of disorderly conduct.” I expressed my anger at the state, at the corruption I’d witnessed at Fitchburg State College, at the inaccessibility of public documents to the public, at the legalization of nepotism in 1986, rampant cronyism, patronage and corruption in other aspects of public business. That was my argument, not really even with the Park Attendant, but rather with the rules, the corruption of the rules.
4. Commonwealth vs. Jarrett (1971): “Mere making of statements or expression of views or opinions, no matter how unpopular, or views with which persons present do not agree is not punishable as disturbance of the peace.”
Business as Usual in the Connected-wealth of Massachusetts
As the State continues unabashedly in its century’s’ old tradition of nepotism, cronyism, and patronage, Big Dig and lesser dig scandals, intellectual corruption in the public colleges and schools, secret payoffs to public cronies, secret personnel files, secret archives of public arbitration and grievance hearings, oligarch hogs of public office (e.g. Teddy Kennedy), absence of freedom of information, whistleblower legislation, apathetic community newspapers (e.g. The Concord Journal), and suppression of free speech, it has become more important than ever for citizens of conscience to muster the courage to speak out against, and otherwise fight and challenge the corrupt State and all those who seek to perpetuate its status quo… for personal profit. The State wants citizens to be ignorant, indifferent, and good team players in its pitiful state of affairs. Its public schools, indeed, have been doing a fine job educating citizens in that direction.
The purpose of this Public Notice is to inform the public and encourage the public to think critically, question and challenge State authority, and otherwise, in the words of Emerson, “stand upright and speak the rude truth in all its ways.” The Concord Free Public Library refused  to post it. What is in the minds of those librarians? What is in the minds of the citizens of Concord who are up in arms over the US Patriot Act, yet don't give a damn about what happened to one of their fellow citizens? Well, it is safe to protest what is distant and, yes, for them, the US Patriot Act is quite distant. I brought this matter to the attention of Robert Plotkin who was organizing Concordians against the Act. He refused to even respond. Silence rather than debate!
Subj: The Patriot Act and other acts...
Dear Mr. Plotkin: It is interesting (or revealing?) that you have chosen not to comment on my letter at all. BTW, I had an interesting thought regarding you… a conclusion in effect. Your real fight is not for the First Amendment but rather against Bush. In reality, you don't really care about the First Amendment. You simply want to nail Ashcroft and Bush. Why were you not up in arms—and I'm damn sure you weren't—when Clinton signed a bill drastically limiting habeas corpus? Most likely you are one of those sad liberal ideologues that Bernard Goldberg hammers in his two books, Bias and Arrogance. Read those books. You might learn something. [No response]
How not to get angry at these characters! Their hypocrisy is base and grotesque. The following are letters sent, amongst others, to Walden Woods Project, Thoreau Institute, Walden Pond State Reservation, a Thoreau impersonator, and a Hearing Officer.
Subj: Stir things up? Ha!
Dear Walden Woods Project: Why am I kept out of the Festival of Authors year after year? I'm a local published Concord author. "We need people stirring up the way we think about things," states one of your Walden Woods Project protegees. Well, I have stirred up things... but too much no doubt for your comfort! Why not publish my new 740-page autobio novel: THE POET: An Indictment of Intellectuals from the Bottom-Feeding Grounds of Fifth-Tier Academics… and Elsewhere? Why not examine my account of being arrested and incarcerated for a non-violent argument at Walden Pond and my being pushed off grounds on another occasion by a mounted cop for merely protesting silently with a placard: NO FREE SPEECH AT WALDEN POND. Why not read my account of protesting the new community bulletin board in downtown Concord? Why not read what the new Concord Poetry Center director has to say about protest at its center? WHY NOT? It's all on my website. Why not read my press release in this week's Concord Journal? WHY NOT? Well, I know why not... I do hope you do to. G. Tod Slone...
Subj: Teach ALL of Thoreau, not just the feel-good pabulum! variety!
Date: 9/3/03 2:51:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time
To Kent Curtis, Thoreau Institute: Why not take Thoreau one-step further and out of the "working together for higher salaries" (uh, I mean, public education!) MTA-propaganda machine? Have the children and young adults visit my site regarding Thoreau, Thoreau Society, Thoreau trinket boutique, and Walden Pond, where free-speech is a jail-able offense. Yes, have them contemplate my arrest and incarceration in Concord for exercising my First Amendment rights at Walden Pond State Facility. I'd be more than happy to deliver a free lecture on the subject (I do have a PhD, have been a dissident college professor for the past 15 years and have NO CRIMINAL RECORD.). Thoreau was much more, at least for a few of us, than a friendly, ardent ecologist. Read between the lines in his journals! BE CURIOUS and examine my anti-conformist site. Teach the children to be curious, rather than indoctrinate them. Stop perverting Thoreau by placing him in a feel-good museum and context.
FromTimofey Pnin Timofey_pnin@hotmail
Hello. Found your chest-beating Thoreau-inspired tantrums kind of funny, but I have to tell you that your magazine's message would be a lot more convincing if the writing wasn't so lousy.
Thanks for the comment. Bad writing? That must mean you were offended by the truth. Always kill the messenger with epithet, then you can ignore the truth in his message. I'll include your letter in next issue due out in a month. I always included the harshest criticism of The AD and its editor. Of course what perturbs the most is those who worship Thoreau, profit from him in some way, and choose to ignore his wonderful statements of wisdom.
To Kevin Krader, Thoreau Impersonator: I suppose it was you who I bumped into at the Concord Museum the other day. Anyhow, why not a little courage and step out of the impersonator mold and "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine" instead of promoting it? I am an enemy of the Thoreau Society as you most certainly know. I suppose Thoreau too would have been an enemy. No doubt, he would have found you totally aberrant walking around disguised as him! How interesting this perversion of Thoreau into Society, bronze statue, trinkets, shop at Walden, human animated Thoreau effigy for cash, and gorilla cops pursuing at Walden a man simply holding a sign proffering the absence of Free Speech at Walden? Well, if you're a Thoreau Society member, I suppose you won't even give it a thought.
Subj: Message of protest
Date: 12/20/01 10:10:10 AM Eastern Standard Time
To the Walden Project: What you have been doing is grotesque. Leave Walden alone! Let the goddamn pond erode... NATURALLY! Let FREE SPEECH thrive at the pond, not trinket shops and bronze statues! Hell, I was incarcerated for speaking out on the grounds of Walden Pond. Do you give a shit? Of course not... surely your silence condoned it. You have become a perverse carcinoma upon the back of Henry David. For an account of my arrest, see the site below. But then I doubt you're at all curious... too busy bowing in front of Hillary and Billy... or is it Bush now. That Clinton photo in your brochure is an insult to Henry David. Clinton was everything Thoreau despised in a man. Why do you choose to ignore what Thoreau said regarding such "distinguished" people? Here's Thoreau. I've memorized these lines because they are beautiful in TRUTH: "A cross man, a coarse man, an eccentric man, a silent, a man who does not drill well,-of him there is some hope. Your gentlemen, they are all alike. They utter their opinions as if it was not a man that uttered them." In fact, I even incorporated them in a poem. Feel free to use the poem in your next brochure. In fact, why not invite me, a dissident poet, to one of your joyous fundraisers? Here is my poem. Enjoy it. But will you dare read it? Will you comprehend it? Do you have curiosity? Have you traded your soul in for a seat at society's table?
Februrary 2, 2001
Town of Concord
Officed of the Parking Clerk
22 Monument Sq.
Concord, MA 01742
To the Hearing Officer:
How do I find out who gets off without paying parking tickets in Concord? As a citizen, may I consult your files? If so, how do I do this? I am not happy with your police officers hanging around the corners, hiding and looking for citizens to nail and otherwise screw up the citizen's day for some minor infraction of minor regulation. They are not helping citizens, but trying to fine and incarcerate them. It is scandalous that I was ticketed while parked in front of Town Hall doing research on town corruption inside Town Hall. The ground was full of snow and the no parking sign was hardly visible at all. I sure as hell did not see it.
This town is beginning to disgust me. I cannot even exercise free speech in front of Walden Pond off Pond property without your town cops harassing and threatening me with incarceration. What the hell has happened to Concord? Wasn't it the cradle of liberty? I think the entire way how the police operate here needs to be examined in profundis before we too end up with a POLICE PROBLEM like Spencer, Boston, Newark, NYC, LA, Chicago and need I go on.
These things said, please reconsider your arbitrary and capricious determination. I did not receive a remittance copy, so cannot forward it to you. If you determine again that I must pay, well then I'll have to pay. In that case, would you at least consider several hours of community service in lieu of the dollar bill? I have been unemployed for some time due to blacklisting by the corrupt Fitchburg State College. I await your letter.
PS: Please consider subscribing to my Concord-based literary journal, which ought be of interest to a hearing officer and even his/her children. Its focus is corruption.
Subj: yr letter of 2/2/01 in response to denial of parking ticket appea l
Date: 2/7/01 10:08:01 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: BSommers@concordnet.org (Bill Sommers)
To: email@example.com ('firstname.lastname@example.org') CC: PRobertson@concordnet.org (Pat Robertson)
From the Hearing Officer: I have your letter noted above. The hearing was held on February 1 for all those who had appealed their tickets. No one showed for the hearing. I carefully reviewed each appeal, taking into consideration the situation and the police officer's activity note attached to the appeal. Your appeal was denied because the signs where you parked clearly state half hour parking only and since you parked longer than the allotted time, you were ticketed - and were other parkers who also overstayed the half hour. While it was a snowy day, the two signs, which delineate the restricted parking are, are about 7 feet off the ground. The restricted parking area in front of Town Hall is set at a half hour to encourage a rapid turnover and thus be more accommodating to citizens who have business at the Town Hall.
Since the hearing has already been held and a decision reached and notified, I cannot hold another hearing. However, you can appeal my decision through the Middlesex District Court; you can get the particulars of the appeal by calling the Clerk at the Court whose phone number is 369-0500.
I should add that the police officer who is assigned the parking enforcement duty is in sight, full uniformed and drives in a fully marked police car.
Thanks for your letter. Regards. Bill Sommers, Hearing Officer
Subj: Interview Request
Date: 2/7/01 5:26:21 PM Eastern Standard Time
To the Hearing Officer, Well, you said it yourself. The signs are 7 feet hight! I would have had to get out of my car on that snowy day and purposely look straight into the sky to see them. Now, why the hell are they seven feet high? Normally, a person looks straight in front of himself when he walks, not sky high. By the way, the woman at Town Hall said, and I remember quite clearly, there was no need for me to go to the hearing, that it wouldn't matter... and most don't go to the hearing. That's what she said. So please talk to the people in Town Hall and tell the sonsabitches not to tell people they don't have to go to the hearings. What kind of good ole Massachusetts crony-infested inefficiency exists at Town Hall?
How does it feel to be a FUNCTIONARY OF THE STATE? In fact, would you mind if I interviewed you for my magazine, THE AMERICAN DISSIDENT? I and my readers would be very curious to learn what might be in the mind of a STATE FUNCTIONARY. How is it that so many of you think alike as if ONE ENTITY? These things I'd really like to ask you in the context of an interview. Seriously, can I interview you at Town Hall for my magazine? Thanks for your letter. I look forward hearing from you. G. Tod Slone
PS: Again, let me underscore that it is sickening to see the cops in this town hiding behind corners waiting to pounce on citizens. What the hell has happened to this Democracy? I am not the only one to notice the cops lurking behind bushes and corners!
September 13, 2000
Executive Director: John Roberts
99 Chauncy Street, Suite 310
Boston, MA 02111
To Mr. Roberts:
Again, I wish to request legal assistance from your organization regarding Walden Pond State Reservation's continual harassment of my efforts to exercise free speech upon its premises… even outside the grounds by its entrance. On three different occasions (5/17/00, 9/8/00 and 9/9/00) park authorities ordered state police to force me off park grounds. Enclosed is a letter I sent to the Concord police chief, my state rep, state senator, governor Weld, who of course doesn't answer letters from common citizens, and Dept. of Environmental Management in Cambridge. I doubt any of these entities will even respond. Can you help, or are you content that free speech does not exist for those not involved in high profile, high media attention occurrences. Not even the Concord Journal will cover this matter.
November 10, 2000
Wendy M. Zimny
99 Chauncy St
Boston, MA 02111
To Wendy M. Zimny :
Thank you for your second reply. I am curious where we are going with this thing? If we are indeed going no where, then why continue? Why not just tell me that the ACLUM has limited funds and that my case is not pertinent, as the ACLUM told me when contacted regarding my whistleblowing at Fitchburg State College and at Martha's Vineyard Regional H. S. several years ago? Well, if indeed you intend on doing something, enclosed are the documents requested. I was never given a document regarding the outcome of my trial in front of the judge, who did simply dismiss the case. I have not been to Walden Pond since being forced off the premises by BOTH state and city of Concord police. Authorities at Walden refuse to answer my correspondence, thus I cannot offer you their particular code of rules. But I assume their rules are the same as enclosed Title 304. I have scanned these documents for you and taken time to send you this letter. I did attempt to file a complain against the arresting officer for fraudulent testimony, but was told I'd have to pay $100 and that chances were 99.9% I'd lose.
Again, please inform me what gives the police and park authority the right to prohibit a citizen of Massachusetts from holding a sign of protest on STATE property? Is not STATE property PUBLIC property? Am I not PUBLIC? Interestingly, the PUBLIC library in Concord will not allow me to post on its PUBLIC bulletin board an account of the incidents at Walden. This state has really begun to disgust me with its Senator for Life Teddy Kennedy and prolific cronyism. Have you checked out my website? Maybe you can get the ACLUM to subscribe to my journal, which is a free speech friendly journal. The State cultural council with board member his eminent crony William Bulger has yet to grant me subidy.
May 17, 2000
Executive Director: John Roberts
99 Chauncy Street, Suite 310
Boston, MA 02111
To Mr. Roberts:
Would the ACLUM be willing to back me if I contest Walden Pond State Reservation park authorities and continue placing the enclosed flyer in its outside information booth? A state trooper today at Walden Pond informed me that he would arrest me if I continued doing so. I cannot afford to hire a lawyer to help me in this evident First Amendment concern, being unemployed and blacklisted by the state college system of Massachusetts. As you can see, my flyer only solicits thought from the citizenry, nothing more, nothing less. By refusing me the right to post it at the park, the State refuses me the right to criticize the State within in its grounds. Is this not illegal in Massachusetts? Or is there some technical addendum to the law that I have missed?
June 4, 2000
Executive Director: John Roberts
99 Chauncy Street, Suite 310
Boston, MA 02111
To Mr. Roberts:
It is apparent that you are too big to respond personally to a common citizen of the Commonwealth, and too big to feel anything whatsoever for the plight of a common citizen of the Commonwealth struggling to exercise his supposed free speech rights in the Commonwealth.
Your statement in today's Boston Globe article on a proposed Speaker's Corner was, at best, lame, and, at worst, absolutely reprehensible. Recall what you said: “Although Boston's gut reaction to disagreeable speech is often to censor it, once we get an opportunity to raise the issue of free speech, there is often an understanding of its importance.” Clearly, only a comfortable functionary could make such a statement.
Considering those flaccid words and your evident indifference to the plight of common citizens of the Commonwealth struggling for free speech, how can you expect common citizens of the Commonweatlh to support the efforts of the ACLU in Massachusetts? In America, everything is for sale. May I ask: Who purchased the ACLUM and how much did they pay?
How strange that you do not even comment on the absurdity of a tiny Corner in the entire state where free speech may be permitted. Such a Corner could only constitute, in the eyes of the few who have not been fully indoctrinated by the state's public educationists, but a memorial monument to the lost democracy. How much will parking cost by that Speaker's Corner for those of us not living downtown? Shame on you, Mr. Executive Director, for not giving a damn about my new publication, The American Dissident, devoted to Free Speech! Shame on you for not giving a damn about my immediate termination as teacher after I criticized Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in the Martha's Vineyard Times!
Shame on you for not giving a damn about my being blacklisted as a college professor because I tried in vain to expose State college corruption in the Commonwealth!
Shame on you for not giving a damn about my spending four hours in a Concord jail cell for criticizing the State at Walden Pond State Reservation! Shame on you for not giving a damn that a state trooper accosted me last month at Walden Pond State Reservation, threatening arrest and fine if I continued leaving my pamphlet, which criticizes the State, on State property!
Have you ever read Thoreau… I mean, really read Thoreau, Mr. Executive Director?
Have the wealth-drooling lawyers surrounding you, like the one you had respond to my last letter, poisoned your sense of purpose? No, Mr. Executive Director, I hold no illusions. I doubt you will ever get to even read this letter. Mine is but an exercise in Freedom.
May 18, 2000
Ranger Luke Brackett
Dept. of Environmental Management
817 Lowell St.
Carlisle, MA 01741-1315
To Ranger Brackett:
Well, I was expecting a Court Order or Arrest Warrant when the mailman presented the certified letter at my door. No wonder there are now two million citizens rotting away in American jails, where the rate of incarceration is the highest in the entire world. I am not a violent person, Ranger, but will express myself in public, despite the fact that you and the police clearly detest such expression. Now, you threaten me with arrest… once again. Indeed, a state police trooper accosted me yesterday at Walden Pond to inform that he would arrest me if I left my flyer in the Thoreau replica shack. There is nothing like the State police to put fear in the hearts of questioning and thinking citizens. Is that what you seek at Walden Pond today? Wouldn't Henry David Thoreau have been absolutely dumbfounded?
Why do you refuse to permit me to post one flyer critical of the Park and Thoreau Society at Walden Pond? Surely, it will not harm anybody, not even the Society's Executive Director. I'm sure not even one out of one hundred visitors educated in the Nation's public schools will even take the time to read it, let alone comprehend it.
One must wonder which fascist school dispensed its education to you or whether you have even read Henry David Thoreau, let alone Jefferson or Madison. I suppose it is quite possible that you cannot even comprehend my flyer, nor my anger for being incarcerated last September as a result of a nonviolent dispute with one of your park rangers. He never did file an official complaint, so I do not know his name. Your manner of operating Walden Pond is extremely disturbing. It is disgraceful to think that the Pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau does not permit First Amendment rights upon its grounds today. I a citizen of Concord do not even have the right to criticize you, a government official, on State, that is, public property despite the legal statutes in effect. Of course, we both know that State property is not really public property, that is, when the public disagrees with the State.
I am currently seeking legal assistance regarding this First Amendment concern, if not outright violation. Perhaps pro bono assistance will be impossible to find for we both know that American lawyers tend to be money obsessed and justice indifferent today. Perhaps, or most likely, you will succeed in keeping anybody critical of the park, not willing to spend large sums of money, from speaking against the park on park, that is, public grounds. It is most disgusting to me that you are running the pond in a Gestapo-like manner, sending the State police to accost citizens to inform they do not have First Amendment rights upon the grounds of Walden Pond. Give the police/rangers too much leeway and you end up with a police state. God help the Nation! What are we becoming, an army of uniformed automatons, unquestioning, obedient citizens, where conformity is God and nonconformity punishable by incarceration? Can this really the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?
By the way, I wish to apply officially for the Park Interpreter position announced on your bulletin board. I am 52 years old; hopefully, you do not also practice age discrimination. I have a doctoral degree and profound knowledge of the writings of Henry David Thoreau. I have also taught college and evening school adults. I would love nothing more than to teach park visitors from personal experience about the meaning of Thoreau's “Civil Disobedience,” for example. I get along fine with people, but will question and think. I doubt any other applicants will have these qualifications. Please set up an appointment for an interview. I am available any time. You may contact me via email or snail mail. I am a citizen of America and should have equal opportunity regarding all public jobs. (Of course, we both know that just isn't and won't be so.)
May 7, 2000
Walden Pond State Reservation
915 Walden St.
Concord, MA 01742
To Whom It May Concern:
In the name of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, I formally request space on the bulletin board at the outside park information booth at Walden Pond to post the enclosed information bulletin, which denounces not only park authorities but also the Thoreau Society, which apparently has greater influence than common citizens of the Commonwealth since it has been accorded the right to post its flyers on said bulletin board.
I am making this request because one of your rangers informed me today that park regulations, which are not posted, do not permit citizens to solicit 'thought' from other citizens on park grounds. This of course is the only thing the enclosed flyer solicits. Your prohibition, of course, seems aberrant because citizen taxpayers funded the park in the first place, and I am a citizen taxpayer. Can it really be true that the park forbids taxpayers from exercising their First Amendment rights to, amongst other things, criticize the park on park grounds?
If in fact you choose to ignore this letter, as you chose regarding a previous letter requesting a list of words prohibited on park grounds, then I will continue distributing my flyer in the name of the First Amendment. You may wish to call one of your state police officers to have me incarcerated a second time.
I enclose another flyer regarding my arrest and incarceration last September as a result of a wholly nonviolent argument I had with one of your rangers, who ordered the state police to hunt me down. Curiously, that ranger never even filed a complaint against me. Because of my incarceration it has become most difficult for me to enjoy my walks around Walden. In fact, I am always left feeling a bit criminal when entering the park as if a gag order had been placed upon my speech. I wonder what Thoreau would have thought.
Finally, perhaps you need to instruct your rangers that in the State of Massachusetts, incivility is not a crime. Perhaps you ought to use my flyer in their training sessions. Perhaps you ought to request my services as professor in their training sessions. Currently, I am unemployed, having blown the whistle on corruption at Fitchburg State College and elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The State of Massachusetts unlike other states does not have whistleblower legislation, preferring instead to destroy the livelihoods of whistleblowers. If it had enacted such legislation, perhaps the Big Dig would have been a smaller dig, if you get my drift.
For some interesting articles about speech concerns, try the First Amendment Center.