Woodstock stands up for First Amendment
Dear Editor: Congratulations to the town of Woodstock and the Woodstock Town Board for unanimously passing a free speech resolution. This resolution is the first of its kind in New York state, and perhaps in the nation, to stand up to a direct attack on our First Amendment right of free speech and its attendant right to boycott.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 157 of June 5, 2016, clearly tries to limit those First Amendment rights by imposing economic retribution on those entities that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israeli policies and its treatment of Palestinians. In addition, in a way reminiscent of the McCarthy-era blacklist of suspected Communists, this executive order creates a public list of all entities supporting the campaign and only allows for those names to be removed from the list by those entities publicly renouncing the campaign.
Woodstock Free Speech introduced the resolution to the Town Board on July 19 and then undertook a community education campaign, including extensive dialogue with the Town Board, which voted to pass the resolution on Sept. 19. In so doing, the board stated it makes no declaration in support of or in opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and, in fact, acknowledges deep, board divisions on the matter.
The Town Board, much to its credit, was open to exploring this issue and asked numerous probing questions, many of which were answered by a First Amendment rights attorney. This was decided solely on the question of First Amendment rights and the board’s desire to protect its citizens against any and all abridgements of their civil liberties. Nic Abramson Woodstock