A group of 20 Democrats in the state Senate released an open letter Thursday with guidance for state and local officials who feel threatened by the behavior of opponents of masks, vaccines, and other COVID-19 precautions: report it to the police.
The letter was signed by all but three Senate Democrats. Not participating were Sens. Dennis Bradley of Bridgeport, Mae Flexer of Windham, and Cathy Osten of Sprague.
The rest of the Senate’s majority caucus cited incidents of threats and intimidation directed at elected officials around the country in response to COVID-19 policies: an attempt last year to kidnap Michigan’s governor as well as harassment of boards of education around the nation. Here in Connecticut, the group of senators pointed to other incidents like an event two weeks ago in Cheshire, in which Gov. Ned Lamont was pursued and heckled by aggressive demonstrators opposed to masks in schools.
“Protestors in Connecticut are angry and on the edge, and they are getting angrier,” the senators wrote. “In some instances, their words and actions have been praised by certain politicians. This needs to stop. It is only a matter of time until a small, angry group of individuals or one particularly disturbed person who is egged on with disinformation and partisan hubris escalates from spitting and hand gestures and screams of Nazism and criminal behavior to something much more dangerous. The time to prevent any future tragedy is now.”
The letter encourages officials to immediately report instances of “harassment, threats, intimidation and violence” to the police. They compared the guidance to the federal Homeland Security Department’s “If you see something, say something” campaign.
“Harassment and intimidation in the course of your public duties are not ‘part of the job’; they are potential crimes that should be reported to police,” they wrote. “Now is the time to take a stand against harassment and intimidation before it escalates into physical violence, injury, and perhaps death.”
In a Facebook post responding to the letter, the group “Unmask our Kids CT” accused the lawmakers of having “lost their minds” and pointed to Connecticut Democrats’ support of demonstrations including protests against racism last year.
“People asserting their rights to redress and protest their government is protected speech as stated in the Connecticut and U.S. Constitutions,” Jonathan Johnson, founder of the group, said. “Silencing political opinions and opponents by proposing stripping Constitutional rights from Connecticut residents is totalitarian and absolutely un-American.”