Moms for Liberty event permit generates strong reaction in Avon
By Ted Glanzer
AVON – Several town officials and area residents are planning a peaceful protest outside a scheduled Oct. 21 event sponsored by a group that has been called “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Moms for Liberty – Hartford County Chapter has scheduled a lecture/seminar titled “Parental Rights: What’s The Controversy?,” with tickets running $25 to $125.
While the group reportedly sometimes books more than one location, it has pulled a permit to hold the event at the Avon Senior Center.
The event’s featured speaker is author James Lindsay, a self-described expert in Critical Race Theory, followed by a panel discussion featuring “constitutional attorneys, physicians and state legislators,” moderated by political analyst Todd Wood, the editor in chief of CD Media, according to an online flier.
The national Moms for Liberty group has its roots as an anti-mask and anti-vaccine group during the pandemic and has mushroomed into 130,000 members and 30 chapters in 47 states, according to Salon.com. In addition to pressing for conservatives to win local school board elections, the far-right-wing organization advocates for “parents rights” and seeks to ban books and materials on, among other things, LGBTQ issues, sexual identity, race and racism and diversity, according to the outlet.
So far the organization has been successful in having books banned from local and school libraries nationwide, a troubling trend for many Avon officials and residents who say the M4L (as it’s sometimes called) agenda has no place in town or the area.
“I think it’s out of touch for the Farmington Valley,” state Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw (D-Avon) said. “I hear from people all over the Farmington Valley, even beyond my district. And we trust our teachers. We have wonderful Boards of Education; we have some of the best schools in the nation. This is completely out of step with the overwhelming majority of the parents we have in this community. Why come here? I don’t understand why, honestly. It’s incredibly out of step with parents here.”
“[M4L] peddles intolerance and espouses hateful views that are disturbingly anti-inclusivity, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-factual history, anti-diversity, anti-decency and, in my opinion, thoroughly anti-American,” Town Council Chairman Dan Polhamus said in a Facebook post. “This group aims to implement these views through censoring books in libraries and by influencing local elections with the goal of controlling local school boards and governments.
“These people are not representative of the Avon I know and love.”
Polhamus urged parents to do their own research and to reject the M4L agenda.
M4L’s website says that its mission is to “empower moms to raise patriots and promote liberty for the healing of America.” It says that it does not seek to ban books, but looks to have material available where it’s age-appropriate, according to Hartford chapter chairwoman, Manju Gerber of Avon, who did not respond to a request to comment but was recently interviewed by Law Enforcement Today.
“After all, would you give a 6-year-old child an assignment to read Homer, Shakespeare, or even JD Salinger? Of course not, because they are not age-appropriate books for 6-year-olds. They are not ready to handle that type of material,” she told the outlet.
Kavros DeGraw and local young-adult author Carrie Firestone say the end result is the same: book banning on topics related to the most vulnerable groups.
“They’re affecting my industry profoundly,” Firestone said. “The first thing I encourage people to do is to take a look at the books they are calling out on their website and in their chapters. You’ll notice a theme. The books they are calling out across the board are books written by LGBTQ authors or authors with LGBTQ+ characters, calling out specifically Black authors, or books with Black-focused content including pivotal moments in Black history and calling out immigrant authors or authors from immigrant communities.
“There’s a theme here. As an author I’m seeing my colleagues who are on that list not getting calls from schools for school visits because they don’t want the school to have to deal with issues. So my colleagues who rely on school visits for their income — colleagues who are loved and are respected, esteemed in the kid-lit world — are now suddenly finding they don’t have work.”
Not all officials, however, entirely oppose M4L’s appearance.
“This is the first I’ve heard of this event,” state Sen. Lisa Seminara (R-Avon) said in a statement. “Avon residents know that I support a welcoming, caring and inclusive environment for all students. I also champion the protection of local control of education and parental involvement in our schools. In addition, I strongly believe in our First Amendment right to freedom of speech in all its forms, including the freedom to peacefully protest.”
While efforts to reach Gerber were unsuccessful, an individual claiming to be a spokesperson for M4L called this reporter from an unknown number and asked to have questions emailed to her.
The offer was declined as it wouldn’t be known who was responding to the questions and did not invite follow-up questions, the spokesperson — who declined to give her name when asked — asked how this reporter found out about the event.
Which brought up another question from Kavros DeGraw. The group’s modus operandi, according to Kavros DeGraw, is to book multiple locations in an area and then tell attendees hours before the event where it’s taking place. That, Kavros DeGraw said, is a way to throw off protestors.
If the organization is so popular and its message so reasonable, why go to such lengths to keep event locations a secret, Kavros DeGraw asked.
The flier for the Oct. 21 event does not provide a location, and the ticket portal on Eventbrite says attendees will be notified of the location 12 to 24 hours before it takes place. The Valley Press obtained the permit taken out by Gerber for the Avon Senior Center’s community room for Oct. 21. The event, according to the permit, will run from 1:45 to 4 p.m.