September 16, 2020BERLIN — A rally that took place in support of President Donald J. Trump's re-election in Berlin on Aug. 22 did not end well for a group of VFW veterans who were holding a road toll fundraiser in Berlin, in Veterans Park.
The VFW, a non-profit, cannot appear to have any political affiliation. The Trump rally was also taking place in the same place, which put the veterans in a conundrum.
At last Wednesday's City Council meeting, VFW member Floyd Burlock relayed to the Council what took place that day.
Burlock said that the VFW rented the space ahead of time for their fundraiser. "
We went to set up at 6:30 a.m. We were made aware of the rally and made a post on FaceBook but never heard anything from any of their organizers. My post explained that our road toll could not be interfered with because of our non-profit status as a veterans' organization," explained Burlock.
Burlock explained that the rally was to take place between 2 and 4 p.m.; however, they showed up at 11:30 a.m.
"When a few people showed up I advised them that they move their rally to another location, they said they would try their best," he added.
"More people started showing up to the rally, so I went to talk to the man in charge, who wouldn't give me his name. He said that he was a retired lieutenant colonel and could tell me where to go because of his rank, which isn't true. I asked if they could at least move to the west side of the park, in which they did not," said Burlock.
The man proceeded to tell Burlock that the park was his property because he pays taxes on it.
"I then explained to the man that if they stayed, we would have to shut down our fundraiser, and that we had the park reserved until 7 p.m. He then started yelling about his first amendment rights and told me that I wanted to take his guns from him," explained Burlock.
The veteran tried to explain that the VFW is a neutral organization, but to no avail.
Burlock said the insults kept coming, adding "Eventually, we just picked up our flags and shut things down."
Berlin's Police Chief Peter Morency took part in the meeting and thanked the three veterans in attendance for their service.
Mayor Paul Grenier was next to speak, and said "I was home when members of the VFW stopped by to tell me what happened. I was incensed. We all have our first and second amendment rights. This is still Berlin. This is not Los Angeles or Kenosha, WI, the people here know each other on a first name basis. We should allow some respect for our fellow citizens."
He added, "I went down to the park to ask the organizers of the rally what took place."
Grenier relayed that those at the rally started reading him the riot act and would not budge. "I told them I hope they're real proud of themselves. I was equally as incensed during a BLM rally when people were sitting on memorial stones. This is rural New Hampshire, we can be better to each other here."
The Mayor added "They began reading me the riot act, so I said I hope your real proud of yourselves."
Grenier with passion in his voice, said "I'm on the side of the veterans. This park is hallowed ground for these guys and I want to do everything we can to ensure that they get all the respect they are due."
Because the constitution protects public assembly, the only loophole would be to deed a portion of the park to the VFW, so that they are able to carry on with fundraisers and events without interruption. This was a suggestion from Berlin's Community Development Director Pam Laflamme. The Council agreed to that solution and have plans to move forward.
Burlock, with emotion in his voice, said "That would be an honor. Thank you."