Westchester Legislators Propose “Protest Law”

foldedflagWestchester County Republican Legislators Sheila Marcotte, John G. Testa, Jim Maisano, Gordon Burrows and Bernice Spreckman are proposing legislation that would prevent the disruption of funeral services by protesters.  The primary purpose of the law which Marcotte submitted on April 9, 2011 is to protect the privacy of grieving families of soldiers, police officers and firefighters who have died in the line of duty.  In recent years some small radical groups have exploited the deaths of American servicemen and used their funerals as a backdrop to spew messages of hatred and anti-americanism.

Regardless of how cruel and loathsome the rhetoric of these fringe groups may be, the legislation recognizes that their speech is protected under the first amendment.  This legislation accommodates the rights of protesters outside a perimeter of 500 feet, up to one hour prior to the start of a funeral or memorial service and one hour after the completion of the service.

According to Legislator Marcotte , “We are all indebted to the service men, and women, of the American Military for defending our freedom everyday, this will allow their grieving friends and family the respect and privacy that they are entitled to during what can be a very difficult time. While we all respect the recent Supreme Court Decision, this law will prevent demonstrators and protestors from being allowed to purposefully disrupt and upset these services while being held but will still allow for the expression of free speech prior to and directly after said services if they choose to do so”

Legislator Testa said, “This is a question of common decency and respect for the fallen heroes of our country and their families. This law will protect grieving families from those interested in the political exploitation of their suffering. Families of military personnel killed in action have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and deserve compassion and respect.”

Legislator James Maisano said, “As a Marine and as an American I am profoundly grateful for the freedoms that our men and women in the military risk their lives to protect. I am honored to join Legislator Marcotte in advancing this legislation. Families of fallen soldiers should not have to endure the cruel and combative antics of extremists at the solemn events surrounding the burial of their loved ones. Freedom of speech is a right that is at the heart of our democracy and this legislation thoughfully protects that right while ensuring the privacy and the opportunity to grieve with dignity for the families of our military heroes.”

About John G. Testa

Former District 1 County Legislator, John G. Testa is served five terms at the Westchester County Board of Legislators, spending the last 3 terms as BOL Minority Leader. John G. Testa is a lifelong resident of Peekskill who first entered elected public service as a member of the Peekskill Common Council in 1998 and then served three terms as Mayor. He previously served on the Conservation and Parks Advisory Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. John became an elected official eager to improve the City in which his family has lived for more than a century and quickly earned a reputation as a strong, independent, nonpartisan voice for fiscal responsibility. John received a BS degree in Technology from SUNY Oswego, where his academic achievements gained him induction into Epsilon Pi Tau, the International Honorary Fraternity of Technology. He earned his MS degree in Technology from the City College of New York. He began his teaching career in 1980 at Peekskill High School, his alma mater, as an instructor in Technology and Social Studies, retiring in 2013 after 33 years teaching. John has been a leader in support for the Arts Community in Westchester. He presided over the construction of the Peekskill Art Lofts, the establishment of the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, and the complete restoration of the Paramount Center for the Arts, originally a 1930’s movie house and helped bring critical funding to many Westchester programs. Legislator Testa received the “Advancing the Arts in Westchester Award” by ArtsWestchester. John has a been a leader on environmental issues for two decades and has a long record of initiatives he has supported and spearheaded. His active involvement in developing and promoting environmentally friendly policies began as mayor and continued throughout his time as Westchester County Legislator. His efforts consistently earned John the endorsement of the NY League of Conservation Voters. John’s most recognizable accomplishment has been his promotion and preservation of local history and historic landmarks, bringing an unprecedented focus on the region’s rich history, and its legacy of historic Victorian architecture. His roots in historical preservation stem from his experience as a Revolutionary War re-enactor and member of The Brigade of the American Revolution for 50 years. John was instrumental in securing the preservation of the Lincoln Depot, now the Lincoln Depot Museum, where he now serves as President. The museum was recognized in 2015 as one of The Best Museums in Westchester. He also secured the preservation of historic Fort Hill as parkland, a 40-acre parcel that was originally a Revolutionary War encampment site. Under his leadership, the United States Dept. of the Interior declared Peekskill a “Preserve America Community.” John was able to establish a record number of National Register designations of local structures, including the first Downtown and Neighborhood Historic Districts and supported the preservation of the historic Miller House in North White Plains. In 2017 John was named a “Champion of History” by the Lincoln Society in Peekskill. John and his wife of 37 years, Nancy, live in Peekskill and have two adult children, John, Jr. (fiancé Courtney Kelly) and Katy (husband Mike Mearon). John and Nancy recently welcomed the arrival of their first grandchild, Lacey Mae, in 2019.
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