Battle lines form in Litchfield over yellow ribbons [Rep-Am]

January 25, 2022

From the Waterbury Republican-American:


LITCHFIED — The yellow ribbon saga on the Green took a new turn Sunday when a rally of support culminated with participants retying not five but seven ribbons on trees on the center section of the landmark.


By sunset, however, the ribbons were gone, having been taken down by representatives of the Borough of Litchfield Board of Warden and Burgesses, which on Jan. 11 decided to enforce an ordinance prohibiting displays, such as ribbons, on the Green.


Five ribbons were tied to trees on the Green from 2010 until Jan. 13 in a show of support for town residents serving in the military. Their removal by the borough board prompted Val and Leslie Caron of Bantam, who had maintained the ribbons, to organize Sunday’s rally.


“We’re here to fight and we’re not going to stop until the ribbons are back up permanently,” Val Caron said.


A crowd of about 100 turned out for the noon rally, which drew state Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, state Rep. David T. Wilson, R-Litchfield, and Selectman Jonathan Torrant. Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bob Stefanowski attended as did George Logan of Ansonia, a Republican bidding to run for Congress in the 5th District.


Acting borough Warden Gayle Carr, reached for comment after the rally, said she asked Resident Trooper Jim Holm, who was on duty during the gathering, to find out who put the ribbons up and request that they remove them immediately.


If the ribbons weren’t removed by those involved in the rally, the borough would take them down, according to Carr, who walked across the Green during the event and was heard thanking one participant for showing up.


“It’s fine to gather on the Green to protest and speak like they did, but they are not allowed to post things there,” Carr said. “We wouldn’t tolerate that by any group. It’s a shame that the people who conducted the rally and know the law, didn’t conform to it.”


The five ribbons were maintained under a compromise reached with the borough Board of Warden and Burgesses in 2010. The current board decided to take enforcement action after an attorney specializing in First Amendment law advised the board Jan. 11 that the compromise is not binding because the board’s members in 2010 are no longer serving.


Among those addressing the rally were Wilson, Miner and Torrant.


Wilson, saying he was speaking not as a state representative but as a 75-year Litchfield resident, Coast Guard veteran and member of American Legion Post 44 in Bantam, was critical of the borough.


“I’m angry with the borough board for its decision and came here today to support our servicemen and women,” Wilson said. “We need to send a message that this cannot stand and that this group is going to continue to work until the ribbons are back up.”


According to Miner, the ribbons were a sign of a community’s support and prayers for those serving and for their safe return home. The ribbons, he said, were never meant to be part of a political discussion like they have.


“I hope the borough board works hard to change its mind and decision, which wouldn’t be a hard thing to do,” Miner said. “If they want to find a solution, I’m committed to working with them to help make it happen. I’m willing to work with anyone.”


Torrant plans to present to the Board of Selectmen a report showing what it would take to dissolve the borough and consolidate it with the town.


“You are here for a worthy cause,” Torrant said. “I’m going to pursue another worthy cause, and that’s the consolidation of the borough.”