A League of Their Own

05Jun15

As you may have noticed, protesting is back in vogue.

brightview_protest2Beyond the immediate complaints, it’s hard to know exactly what has spawned the recent resurgence in this trend of seeking redress of grievances by “singing songs and carrying signs,” as The Buffalo Springfield once sneered.

Maybe part of it is aging Baby Boomers and their grandchildren nostalgic for the idealism and camaraderie of The Movement.

Except, through the normal evolution of human society many of the social ills that were protest targets in the middle of the 20th century are at least being addressed. We’re far from perfect, but we’ve come a long way in the last 50 years.

So what’s left for the modern-day seeker of social justice? Have all of the forces of evil been defeated?

Not quite, as we came to find out a few weeks ago right here in Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Step aside, Blue Meanies. Move over, Koch brothers. Out of the way, Big Oil. Make room for the real enemy of the people: Big Assisted Living.

big_bronAt the afternoon rush hour on May 13, about a dozen demonstrators held signs on the corner of Main and Water streets to protest Shelter Development’s proposal to build a 130-unit Brightview Senior Living complex on Crescent Street. Then they marched down Main Street to Town Hall to confront Shelter executives and others entering the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting at 7 p.m. They’ve also been spotted in the downtown area standing out with their signs on Saturday mornings.

The ZBA is the board that will decide on the Special Permit that Shelter is seeking in order to build the Brightview project.

Brightview opponents have voiced a host of concerns related to the proposal, including parking, traffic worries, bright lights and the building’s ability to withstand earthquakes. But their overarching objection to the proposed Brightview facility remains its size, an issue that they have raised at virtually every ZBA hearing for the last six months.

Finally, at a hearing in April, ZBA members effectively told the opponents, “We get it. You think it’s too big. We don’t need to hear about size anymore.”

That didn’t go over big with the opponents, who decided that the ZBA did in fact still need to hear it. Ad infinitum.

too_big
So as Zoning Board members, Shelter officials and citizens arrived at Town Hall for that May 13 ZBA meeting, about a dozen sign-holding protesters greeted them with repeated chants of “IT’S TOO BIG! IT’S TOO BIG!”

Frankly, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping for a little more creativity in the slogan department – maybe something like, “NO PARKING, NO PEACE!”

I’m nothing if not helpful, so I came up with a few more ideas for the demonstrators, including this call and response chant that I think would work.

town_hall_protestQ. What do we want?
A. Ninety units!
Q. When do we want them?
A. NEVER!

Or how about, “HEY, HEY, WADDAYA SAY, LET’S IMPEACH THE ZBA!”

That’s all they get for free. If the protesters, who now call themselves The Wakefield Civic League, want me to write their slogans, they’ll have to pay me.

If they can afford those fancy signs, they can afford me.

[This column originally appeared in the June 2, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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