Human Rights group to hold community forum Monday; will discuss Confederate flag, civility and racism, among other issues

Last modified: 12/21/2015 3:20:08 PM
GREENFIELD — An incident that sparked one father’s Facebook complaint about a local police sergeant, whom he criticized for hanging a Confederate flag in his garage next door, has become the subject of a public forum hosted by the town’s Human Rights Commission on Monday.

The commission will host the forum on civility, sensitivity, speech and race at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

The forum is in response to what has become known throughout town and the county as the “Confederate flag controversy,” which involved the display of a Confederate flag in the garage of an off-duty police sergeant, and the concerns of two fathers and their 10-year-old black son, said Human Rights Commission Chairman Lewis Metaxas.

“We welcome the opportunity to have a rich and sincere discussion with members of the community,” said Metaxas. “We hope that together, we can take steps to not only resolve some of the concerns, but also reach a consensus on what the expectations and rights are for all of us in this community regarding these issues.”

Rod Hart posted comments on his Facebook page Nov. 28, saying his son Hugh had expressed concern and fear to Hart and his husband Lindel Hart when he noticed the flag hanging in a garage on a property Greenfield Police Sgt. Daniel McCarthy owns on Shelburne Road. McCarthy does not currently live on the property and it is not clear whether he will in the future.

Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh announced shortly after the incident became public that McCarthy would not be commenting on anything. Instead, Haigh said that because public support for both McCarthy and the Harts was so strong and was affecting the local department, he and Deputy Police Chief Mark Williams would be the only people speaking for McCarthy and police.

While the incident — it is still not clear whether McCarthy was the one who hung the flag — was the topic of conversation on Facebook last week, comments have decreased. Some of the comments were vicious and crude, at times.

It appears the Harts have since deactivated their Facebook pages. McCarthy’s Facebook page is still active and since then a Support for Dan McCarthy page was created.

The issues that will be discussed Monday will include, but not be limited to, what the Confederate flag symbolizes, free speech, privacy, race, and expectations of public officials and public servants both in public and private, while striving for civility and sensitivity in community relations.

Metaxas said he will moderate.

“Here in Greenfield, we are not just individuals residing next to each other,” said Metaxas. “We are a community, and community entails that we are a civic family. Members of families that go through times of trouble talk to each other — or should. This will be our chance to talk to each other.”

Metaxas said he promises that everyone who wants to speak will have an opportunity to do so, and that the discussion will take place in an atmosphere of respect and civility.


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