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Independence Day inspires separate city celebrations

  • Benjamin Miner of Greenfield carried this sign through the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the Common Wednesday morning. Several people objected to the original choice of speaker at the Common event. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • People gathered at Magpie in Greenfield for an alternate choice of reading of the Declaration of Independence Wednesday morning. Several people objected to the original choice of speakers at the Common event. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Monte Belmonte performed a song from Hamilton at Magpie in Greenfield at an alternate choice of reading of the Declaration of Independence Wednesday morning. Several people objected to the original choice of speakers at the Common event. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • People take turns reading portions of the Declaration of Independence on the Common in Greenfield. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • People in character sing “This Land is Your Land” at Magpie in Greenfield at an alternate choice of the reading of the Declaration of Independence Wednesday morning. Several people objected to the original choice of speakers at the Common event. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Ralph Gordon of Greenfield welcomes those gathered on the Common in Greenfield for a patriotic reading of the Declaration Of Independence. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • David Levandusky welcomes those gathered on the Common in Greenfield for a patriotic reading of the Declaration Of Independence, Master of Ceremonies Ralph Gordon is behind him. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Emery Henderson sings the National Anthem those gathered on the Common in Greenfield for a patriotic reading of the Declaration Of Independence. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Ralph Gordon of Greenfield welcomes those gathered on the Common in Greenfield for a patriotic reading of the Declaration Of Independence. July 4, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, July 04, 2018

GREENFIELD — As nearly a hundred people gathered on the Town Common to commemorate the nation’s independence, others gathered across the street at Magpie Pizzeria for what they felt was a more inclusive celebration.

The event on the Town Common, emceed by Ralph Gordon, was independently organized by David Levandusky, pastor for Living Water Assembly of God Church in Greenfield, and featured songs of patriotism, prayer and 22 people reading the Declaration of Independence.

Levandusky faced ire last week after locals learned that controversial anti-LGBTQ gubernatorial candidate Scott Lively was originally expected to participate in the reading. Lively pulled out of the Greenfield event and instead attended a parade in Plymouth also on July 4.

The event featured speeches by Precinct 1 Councilor Verne Sund and Renzo Ventrice, pastor for the Transformation Bible Church in Springfield. Ventrice spoke emotionally about the black Robe Regiment, who were a group of faith leaders that supported the military and the nation’s fight for independence.

But the event did not instill patriotism and pride in everyone.

Across the street, several people packed into the Magpie Pizzeria for a donut potluck, where organizers participated in their own reading of the Declaration of Independence and their own versions of patriotic sing-alongs. The event was organized in response to Lively’s invitation.

When Lively was expected to come to Greenfield, some residents were planning to protest and city politicians, including Mayor William Martin and At-Large Councilor Isaac Mass, pulled out of the reading on the Common.

“We just wanted to offer something with a different take on patriotism that didn’t include hate,” Evelyn Wulfkuhle, co-owner of Magpie Pizzeria and one of the organizers, said.

Wulfkuhle said she wanted a celebration that was inclusive and welcoming to all, values she felt were undermined when Lively was invited.

“I’m part of a queer family and I would love for my kids to feel like patriotism is for them, too,” Wulfkuhle added.

The concurrent events were separate until members from the Magpie gathering took to the street to march around the Common. The march was led by The River’s morning radio personality Monte Belmonte, with some marchers in stars-and-stripes outfits and others in Revolutionary War-era regalia.

The march was mostly peaceful, though one person, Benjamin Miner of Greenfield, walked through the center of the Common during the closing prayer. Miner marched with a sign that read “I can still smell Scott Lively from here.”

Miner said he was there because “if a community leader invites someone like Scott Lively, they need to be held accountable.”

But Miner’s actions drew frustration from organizers at the Town Common event.

“They have the right to show up and that’s OK,” Levandusky said. “But the one person who walked through with the sign should feel ashamed.”

Levandusky described Miner’s actions as “inappropriate” and “disgusting” and added “some people feel no shame and he’s one of them.”

Levandusky said the event was not meant to be political, even with the invitation of Lively, and argued that others “interjected political aspects” into the event on the Common.

But organizers felt it was impossible to untangle the politics from the event once Lively was invited.

“That guy’s ideology is dangerous,” Caitlin von Schmidt, another organizer for the Magpie event, said of Lively.

“It’s not like it’s Charlie Baker or Stan Rosenberg,” she added.

You can reach Dan Desrochers at:

ddesrochers@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 257