Climate activists apologetic over disruption to Veterans Day observance on Amherst Common

  • Amherst Town Common

Staff Writer
Monday, November 21, 2022

AMHERST — Organizers of a monthly action in which activists toll church bells and make noise to draw attention to the world’s climate emergency are apologizing for any disruption they caused to the coinciding Veterans Day event on Friday morning.

Despite the criticism from some families of veterans and active service members about the climate change action outside Grace Episcopal Church marring the Veterans Day ceremony on the adjacent North Common, the bell-ringing was not meant to take away from the occasion, said Sandy Muspratt, a member of Climate Action at Grace.

In fact, Muspratt wrote in an email to the Gazette that the events should be seen as in alignment, observing that one participant carries with her the documentation of her husband’s honorable service.

“The sentiments of both gatherings are aligned: both mark loss and sacrifice; the one past and persisting, the other upon us and to come,” Muspratt wrote.

The tolling originated with churches on the West Coast and has been taken up by many people of faith in the Pioneer Valley over the past year, Muspratt said. The climate action each month is on the 11th day at 11 a.m., to show that the world is in the 11th hour of the climate crisis.

“I much regret that some may have found the activity upsetting or disruptive and apologize whole-heartedly to them,” Muspratt wrote.

At least two residents wrote letters of complaint to the Town Council and Town Manager Paul Bockelman about the bell-ringing overshadowing brief speeches, the playing of the national anthem and a moment of silence for the veterans who have died.

In a response to those, Council President Lynn Griesemer noted what had occurred, and that organizers of the climate event offered apologies that morning.

“While we all want to support freedom of speech, veterans and sustainability, the two events collided in an unfortunate way,” Griesemer wrote.

Kimberly Osborne posted publicly about what occurred on Facebook after bringing her father, Phillip Osborne, to the event. She wrote that he couldn’t hear the names of those being honored with a moment of silence, but he also noted that the protesters had a right to express themselves.

“Even though these people tried their best to ruin Veterans Day for my father, he stood as proudly as he could oxygen tank, cane and all to show respect for all the veterans and current service members,” Osborne wrote.

The Rev. Tom Synan, pastor at Grace, also offered an apology.

“I’m terribly sorry that the Climate Action’s monthly witness to the climate crisis upset anyone or interfered in any way with the Veterans Day remembrance,” Synan wrote. “It was not the intention of anyone to disrupt the ceremony on the Common. We will do better in the future.”