State and town officials arrived in force to show solidarity with angry constituents at a residents' meeting to protest the state's proposed West Street home for convalescent criminal or mentally ill detainees. State senator Paul Doyle, state representative Tony Guerrera, Mayor LaRosa, and several members of the Town Council appeared at the community center to reassure residents of their resolute opposition to the plan.
“We’ll be here 24/7 trying to stop this,” Guerrera vowed. "I live in this town. My children grew up in this town. I don't want this place coming here."
LaRosa articulated the strongest objection. He promised that leaders would "use any legal recourse" to block the new facility.
The mayor even went a step further, advocating civil disobedience if necessary.
"As a last resort, we gotta start throwing up picket lines and not let anyone go in there," he declared, referring to an orchestrated effort to physically prevent the center from opening.
LaRosa then added a reflective note. "It’s been a long time since I've been on a picket line."
The mayor did not seem concerned about political fall-out from publicly raising the prospect of extralegal resistance measures. Of Governor Malloy, he remarked, "He and I aren't on speaking terms right now."
"I think the outcry from the governor would be a lot different if they were gonna put this in Stamford, he added. "I’ll leave it at that."
Malloy served as mayor of Stamford prior to becoming governor.
However, LaRosa predicted that Rocky Hill would "prevail at some point in the process," so the town's opposition to the project probably would not come to radical tactics.
Doyle explained to the crowd, which was estimated at over 100, that they represent one front in "a triple-front war." Community action will be part of a "three-pronged attack," in LaRosa's words, which also includes the town's ongoing lawsuit against the property owners and managers, as well as legislative action sponsored by Doyle and Guerrera.
Guerrera challenged residents with the importance of their part in the process. "Folks, we need you're help," he implored.
The primary component of planned community action will be a demonstration in Hartford, targeted for mid-February, according to meeting organizer Nicole Crawford. A petition will be presented to Malloy at that time.
Petition sheets are currently being circulated throughout town, and a petition drive will be held Sunday at West Side Market. Completed petitions can be dropped off at the Town Hall.
Doyle advised the audience that for the rally to be most effective, it would have to occur on a weekday around noon.
"During the week, at lunchtime, the legislators are there, the governor's there, and the big thing is that the media will be there."
Guerrera acknowledged that a sacrifice was being asked of residents but stressed the importance of recruiting mass support for the demonstration. "We're gonna have to take off of work for this. But, if you get thousands of people on the steps of the Capitol, it will turn heads."
A second residents' meeting will be held, schedule tbd, next week after the initial hearing in the town's lawsuit, which opens Mon, Jan 14. Updates and other, relevant information can be found at protectct.com