Homer Alaska - Letters

Story last updated at 1:55 PM on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Allowing free speech, peaceful protests honor Dennis Novak

After Dennis Novak's tragic death, Homer newspapers and city council honored Novak for his work on the council and in other groups to make Homer a better place.I also want to remember and honor him for doing something that officials often fail to do: encourage public protest.

I participated in a group that asked the city council to pass a resolution against the federal government, based on a petition signed by hundreds of Homer citizens. Mr. Novak was the most supportive. Dennis strongly believed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which says in part, "Congress shall make no law . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances."

In Homer, we've seen protests from the left and the right: Women in Black (a peace group) and VFW members during the Iraq War and people who were pro and con annexation. The council, city manager, mayor and police never interfered.

While living in Anchorage, I participated in major demonstrations in the 1960s and early 1970s. The police never stopped us from marching, speaking or holding up signs. Unfortunately, the Anchorage Assembly recently passed an ordinance against sitting on the sidewalk. In many U.S. cities and universities, officials have instructed the police to pepper spray and, in some cases, beat up protesters, including some who were sitting.This is a horrible example for people in the Middle East who are demonstrating for democracy.

If Homer faces the issue of people marching, standing or sitting in peaceful assembly, whether it is the Tea Party, Occupy Homer or some other group, let us keep our Homer tradition of allowing free speech and peaceful demonstrations.

If Dennis Novak is looking down at us, he will be proud.

Amy Bollenbach