Montpelier, Vermont, August 3, 2020: Twenty-two candidates for state office have joined in an application to paint the words “Liberty and Justice for All” beside the Black Lives Matter painting in front of the Vermont State Capitol. The application duplicates a previous petition filed by gubernatorial candidate John Klar, who was denounced and called a racist for his effort.
In its denial of Klar’s application, the Montpelier City Council sought to embrace “Black Lives Matter” (a national, highly-funded, far-left political organization) as “government speech,” exempt from First Amendment Free Speech protections. John Klar (an attorney) has denounced this as absurd: “Citizens have the fundamental right to equal access to public spaces, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. The City Council tried to label the words “Black Lives Matter” as a permanent public monument, and my application as a competing monument, under a legal case that simply doesn’t apply. Government cannot usurp an open public forum such as the front of our State House, simply by calling block letters a “public monument.” The Montpelier City Council engaged in open content-based discrimination of my effort, a blatant violation of basic Constitutional protections. Government officials do not determine what citizens get to say on our public land.”
Filed by active political candidates for political office, this application is the highest form of political speech, seeking to spread a constitutional message of unity, while asserting basic constitutional rights. The Montpelier City Council is now compelled to answer to a slate of candidates, why their speech (and their local campaigns) are secondary to a well-organized national political organization like Black Lives Matter, whose message has been imposed unilaterally on the state of Vermont by these elected officials.