A New Plot Twist: American Legion Nixes Republicans Marching In Memorial Day Parade
Apr 25, 2019 10:03PM
By Lisa Redmond
DRACUT – Dracut’s Republican Town Committee is again barred from marching in the May 27 Memorial Day Parade, not based on a decision by the town manager, but rather by Dracut’s American Legion commander who cited the Legion’s national constitution and policies.
Richard Ducharme, commander of American Legion Post 315, told The Sun the national constitution and policies states the Legion is prohibited from being affiliated with any political groups. Since the American Legion holds the parade, although the town helps to organize it, the Legion has the final say.
John Raughter, a spokesman for the national American Legion, wrote in an email to YourDracutToday, “All of our departments and posts are autonomous as long as they operate within the confines of The American Legion Constitution and Bylaws…It is for the department and post to determine if including the (Republican) Committee in their event is a violation or not.’’
Raughter referenced Section 21706 the constitution and bylaws which states under political activities: “The corporation shall be nonpolitical and may not promote the candidacy of an individual seeking office.’’
Milton K. Lashua, department adjutant of The American Legion Department of Massachusetts, told YourDracutToday, “The American Legion Department of MA doesn't decide who marches in local town parades, it's usually up to the town parade committee.’’
While Republican Town Committee Chairman Brian Genest couldn’t be reached for comment, he told The Sun, “They’d rather have a patriotic dog (march in the parade) than a patriotic Republican. It’s nothing but pure and petty politics.’’
The decision by Dracut’s American Legion post comes a day after the Board of Selectmen criticized Town Manager James Duggan’s decision to deny the committee’s request to march. The board chastised Duggan for his exclusionary decision.
But Duggan maintained his objective was to have the parade honor veterans who have “made the ultimate sacrifice’’ and not to politicize the event. Duggan suggested that allowing one political group to march is a slippery slope that “will evolve into’’ a political venue for anyone running for office.
Selectman Jesse Forcier and Tony Archinski, who are both up for re-election this year, will march. Republican challenger Brian Bond is a former member of the Dracut Housing Authority and sits on the Board of Dracut Access Television.
“It’s appropriate to permit incumbent officials to march because they are elected by the public and exhibit the public’s respect for the occasion,’’ Duggan wrote in an email to YourDracutToday.
At the selectmen’s meeting, Duggan told the board, “I feel strongly about this,’’ but the board directed him he would reach out to the local American Legion.
Selectman Tony Archinski agreed that the Memorial Day Parade should be an inclusive event, but he also noted, “many veterans and veteran’s groups are sensitive to political interference in these parades and solemn ceremonies.’’
Prior to Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, Dracut Republican Town Committee Chairman Brian Genest wrote in a letter to selectmen that the committee planned for the parade was to have a vehicle with a banner including the organization’s logo, name and committee members would march behind carrying flags and possibly handing out pocket Constitutions.
“There are no candidates participating with us and there is no campaigning or political activities of any kind planned,’’ according to the letter.
In the letter, Genest wrote, “In addition to being a legitimate town organization, I’d like to remind you that members of the Dracut Republican Town Committee are duly elected on the presidential primary ballot.’’
Genest pointed out that town resources are used for the parade. Memorial Day Parade participants were directed to contact Council on Aging Executive Director Bethany Loveless.
The letter continues, “Our organization isn’t asking for special treatment, we’re asking for fair and equal treatment- to be able to participate with other organizations, businesses, scout troops, sports organization and everyone else in town.’’