Inside Arlington

Experimental News Digest for Arlington, MA

Town Meeting, April 29, 2024

Article 14: Prohibit Focused Residential Picketing

Background and Purpose

Arlington’s Annual Town Meeting discussed the passage of a bylaw to prohibit focused residential picketing. This article was brought forth in response to targeted demonstrations that have occurred outside private residences, specifically referencing events involving protests outside the governor’s home in Arlington.

Discussion and Amendments

During the debate, the assembly heard testimony from town officials, residents, and reviewed a disturbing video showing aggressive protesting behavior in a residential area. Chief concerns cited were the balance between constitutional rights of free speech and the right to privacy within one’s home, as referenced in the 1988 Supreme Court case Frisbee v. Schultz.

The article faced several amendments proposed to refine its scope and implications:

  • To align the bylaw language with the Supreme Court’s two-part test from Frisbee v. Schultz, specifying the prohibition to be “focused on and taking place before or about a particular residence.”
  • Introduce a time limitation to the prohibition, restricting it between the hours of 9 PM and 9 AM.
  • To ensure that the prohibition would not apply if the protest was hosted voluntarily by a resident of the targeted dwelling.
  • Suggested the adoption of a bylaw similar to Boston’s, limiting the prohibition of targeted picketing to overnight hours (9 PM to 9 AM), thus offering a less restrictive alternative to the main motion.

After debating these amendments and hearing from town members, including an argument that the existing bylaw on the topic should suffice and that restricting picketing rights may set an unwelcome precedent, the first three passed and the last failed.

Ultimately, the main motion, as amended by these three amendments, was brought to a vote. The vote counted for the main motion resulted in 87 affirmative, 142 negative, and 0 abstentions, leading to the failure of the article to pass, thus keeping Arlington’s town bylaws intact regarding focused residential picketing.

Article 15: Prohibit the Sale of New Fur Products

Background and Explanation

A new bylaw was proposed to make it unlawful to sell, trade, or distribute any new fur products within the town of Arlington. It was clarified what constitutes ‘fur’ and the limitations of the proposed bylaw including exemptions for used fur, religious practices, etc. The amendment aligns with Arlington community values and is consistent with local and state voting records that support animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

Discussion and Presentation

A presentation was given, citing the cruelty of fur farms, environmental impacts, and health risks due to COVID-19 outbreaks in mink farms. The article is supported by several animal welfare organizations and the Select Board. After a discussion over the merits of the article and affirmation that no current Arlington businesses would be affected adversely by the bylaw, a motion was raised and passed to terminate the debate.

Vote Result

Town Meeting voted on the main motion of Article 15, which resulted in the passing of the motion with 194 affirmative votes, 18 negative votes, and 8 abstentions. This makes it unlawful to sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute new fur products in Arlington.



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