More News:

December 09, 2016

Hammonton divide grows over pick of Kellyanne Conway as parade grand marshal

Anti-fascism group plans protest, residents call on town to reconsider choice

Some Hammonton residents and a South Jersey anti-fascism group are calling on the town to reconsider its selection of Kellyanne Conway as grand marshal of its annual holiday parade.

The night parade, put on by the Hammonton Fire Department, is set for Saturday. 

Conway, who ran President-elect Donald Trump's campaign, is expected to receive symbolic keys to the city. She is a native of Atco, Camden County, who graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1985.

"Just as the parade runs through the center of Hammonton, so do I feel this choice divides our town and weakens the bonds between us," – Hammonton resident Jess Bonnan-White, in a letter to Hammonton's town council

But not everyone sees Conway as deserving, and some residents have expressed dismay on social media.

Hammonton resident Jess Bonnan-White, a parent of two small children and an assistant professor of criminal justice at Stockton University, has penned a letter to the town council asking officials to rethink the decision.

"Just as the parade runs through the center of Hammonton, so do I feel this choice divides our town and weakens the bonds between us," Bonnan-White writes in the letter, reprinted in full at the bottom of this story.

A "Not my Hometown Hero" Facebook event had been created in response to Conway's role in the parade, but it has since been canceled after the creator, a resident of Hammonton, said she began receiving “some seriously disturbing messages.” 

The event had called on paradegoers to bring signs promoting peace and unity to counter what the organizer felt was a poor choice by the town.

South Jersey ANTIFA, an anti-fascism group, is organizing a peaceful protest during the parade. The group posted on Facebook, in part, "We are concerned citizens outraged at the Hammonton Fire Department decision." It is calling on people to call the fire company to reject its choice.

The Hammonton Fire Department did not return a call for comment.

•  •  •

Jess Bonnan-White's full letter to Hammonton Town Council:

Dear Hammonton Elected Officials,

I am writing to express strong feelings I have about the announcement that KellyAnne Conway will serve as the Grand Marshal of the Hammonton Christmas Parade. I am sure you have heard from other residents of our town, and hope that my voice adds volume to their concerns.

I have lived in Hammonton for four years and am a proud member of a Hammonton community organization and a local educational institution. For the past four years, I have worked hard to make our hometown a hometown for everyone, and to encourage my own children to develop a relationship with the town as a place where Hammontonians support one another as fellow citizens. 

I bring my children to downtown cultural events to broaden their minds, to downtown businesses to learn about local economies, and to the voting booth so that they can learn basic citizenship principles. For months those small voices asked why kids at their Hammonton schools were being bullied and being told their parents would be deported. For months they asked why Muslims would be singled out for registry, like they’d learned about in the history of World War II and the trauma experienced by Japanese-Americans. For months they have asked if their LGBTQ friends and family would have to divorce because they would no longer allowed to be married. These were questions from a 7- and 11-year old about the person they saw elected this past November. 

For these same months, I, as an educator, as a parent, and as a community member had to engage in dialogues having to argue why we, as Americans and as Hammontonians live in a stronger country because we have equality in building families, because we have a diversity of religious practice, because we have immigrants coming to this country to expand our own economic and cultural base, and because our common humanity compels us to understand how those facing conflict, disaster, and fear would search for safety and security. 

KellyAnne Conway was a primary architect of an election campaign that actively opposed all of these values, and instead peddled in the basest of cultural fears. Fears of Muslims, of LGBTQ community members, and of immigrants. She led a campaign that used women as targets for political oppression utilizing the worst of a rape culture that we work against each day. Policies that she helped to form and publicize stand to remove the civil rights of women, Muslims, people who identify as LGBTQ, and immigrants. How, with this background, did the town decide she would be the best candidate for Grand Marshaling a Christmas Parade?

I hope the Town Council, as elected officials, truly examine what this choice means and the message they send to a community that depends on many of these targeted populations for the health and safety of our town. Just as the parade runs through the center of Hammonton, so do I feel this choice divides our town and weakens the bonds between us.