My name is Joshua Troiano. On Saturday March 27, at approximately noon my father and I entered Seekonk High School in which we were seeking to watch (and my dad vote) the town meeting. We followed the path into the gymnasium and the two ladies at the table greeted us in a polite manner. They asked for his name and address to confirm he was a registered voter. My father was then handed a yellow slip which would be used to vote and a packet containing general information. We began to turn around and started walking when we were told that only registered voters could enter the meeting which is something that is new as usually all residents in the town could at least view. Typically, there is a voter’s side and a non-voters side. All I wanted to do was view the meeting but I, a Seekonk resident who is 15-years-old and is an active participant in town events as well as a sophomore at Seekonk High School was denied entry into a PUBLIC town meeting in which I have a constitutional right to attend as a resident of Seekonk. The lady running the check-in at the town meeting went to get “Lorraine Sorel” to clarify these new rules. Later I found out she is the current Assistant Town Clerk. She came over to us and explained that “because of Covid” I, (a resident of Seekonk) couldn’t attend a public town meeting and only registered voters could attend. My father and I were disappointed with this and we walked out when Doug Brown (at the time town selectmen candidate) was talking to a police officer right outside the high school and noticed we were walking out. Never meeting him before he joked to us, “That was the quickest town meeting ever.” He was curious to why we were forced out. I told him that I was kicked out since I am not a registered voter. He immediately shared the same frustration with me. He said, “follow me.” and my father and I followed him. He led us back into the gymnasium and he began to express his frustration with the Assistant Town Clerk and mentioned how under the constitution, it was my 1st amendment right to attend this meeting. After he said what he had to, Mrs. Sorel said she would go get Mr. Cadime (current town administrator). Mr. Brown talked to me for a little bit and was kind and humorous. I am thankful that he stood up for me. He got nothing out of this and he knew he wouldn’t as I am not a voter and there were no cameras around. He did it because he knew it was the right thing to do. I admire him for doing it.
Lorraine Sorel never came back and instead minutes later while my dad and I were waiting in the gymnasium, two police officers approached us and explained the same thing that since Covid-19 I can’t enter the meeting and only my dad can. We said “ok.” and we left the area while being escorted out by police and then went home. Still many questions remained. Did Lorraine Sorel go get Mr. Cadime? And if she did then Mr. Cadime, did you have the police escort me (15-year-old teenager) and my father out of a public town meeting and not come to us and explain to me face to face why you are denying me my right to watch the meeting? Did Lorraine Sorel even go get Mr. Cadime or did she go right to the two police officers and ask them to remove us from the area? These questions should be answered. Why was I tossed to the side like a peasant and kicked out of the meeting by the police? Since Covid-19 exists do I not get to exercise my right to go to this meeting? There is nothing in the town by-laws that prohibits me from entering the meeting. I ask you Mr. Cadime and Mrs. Sorel to please answer these questions. I am sure Mr. Cadime and Mrs. Sorel are good people, but I am worried about them holding office in town if this is how they treat their residents and constituents. I ask for nothing but answers. Logistically, even with seats being spread out I wasn’t taking anyone’s seat. There were only 78 people there and still plenty of room. I would have just viewed and sat quietly listening to the discussion. Instead, town leaders invoked Covid to trample my rights. I would have understood if I was going to take a registered voters seat if I were to go in, but that was not the case. Anyone who was there can attest that there was plenty of room. Just not for me. I hope this never happens to anyone and those who have read this learn more about who their leaders really are. This is not the end, I will be attending the next town meeting and will be asking town leader questions on this matter. I was advised by some to sue but I don’t seek money or revenge. I seek transparency and Democracy from our local leaders.
The following week on Wednesday I went to the town selectmen meeting where the five selectmen and the town administrator (Mr. Cadime) to ask why I was forced out by the police. During the “Community Speaks” section of the meeting one gentleman went up to speak and then I was planning to but when I raised my hand to go up and speak I was ignored and the meeting continued without me given the opportunity to speak. Justin Sulivan, the Chairperson of the Town Selectmen ran the meeting and never even asked if anyone else had anything to say. He carried on the meeting without giving me the opportunity to speak and have my answers, as a town resident answered. On the website it did say and I quote, “Public comments and questions may also be submitted to the Board in advance of the meeting by completing the Google Form below prior to the meeting by Tuesday, March 30, 2021 by 4:30 PM. “ As you can see there was also an option to have your question submitted online but it said you could “also” implying that you would still have the option to do the traditional going up to the podium and speaking. However, that was not given to me.
I tried to give the town officials the benefit of the doubt but not only did they not allow me to watch a public meeting and escort me out like a peasant using the police, they also silenced my voice in trying to ask a question for accountability. We need answers. I didn’t want to do this publicly but since the town selectmen, town moderator, town administrator, and town clerk have no public emails on the town of Seekonk page, I figured going to local news outlets for others to hear was the next viable option. I think this is important to hear and be aware of what our local “leaders” did to me, a young boy interested in how town politics work. The lack of transparency is concerning as these officials are paid through our tax money and therefore should serve us, not treat us like peasants and throw me out of a public town meeting. To those who may believe this is not a big deal, that day it was me, but tomorrow it could be you.