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Goodbye Rebel Girl! Concord’s Communist Marker Removed

The historic marker in Concord commemorating unrepentant Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn got sent to the ash heap of history as the Sununu administration finally stepped up and removed it from state property.

Now the progressive activists who pushed for the marker are complaining about its removal.

The New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker was unveiled on May 1 (May Day). It celebrated Concord-born Gurley Flynn as an early labor activist, a civil rights pioneer, a supporter of women’s access to birth control, and the former head of the Communist Party in America (CPUSA).

Gov. Chris Sununu first promised to get the marker removed after learning about it from irate executive councilors Joe Kenney (R-District 1) and Dave Wheeler (R-District 5) during a Governor’s Council meeting two days later.

“This is a devout communist. We are the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” Kenney said. “How can we possibly promote her propaganda, which still exists now through this sign in downtown Concord?”

Sununu, however, did not immediately take the marker down. Instead, he and his administration blamed Concord city officials for the marker’s placement.

“Why Concord would want to put this in the first place, God knows,” Sununu said on Good Morning NH with Jack Health. “Just tell us to take it down we’ll take it down. I’d love to take it down.”

However, Concord City Attorney James Kennedy responded, making it clear in a letter to Department of Cultural and Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Stewart that the state could do whatever it wanted with the marker it installed.

“To the extent that the State seeks removal of (the Flynn marker) a marker that it approved (title and text) created and installed, bearing the State seal and located on State property, the City takes no position on this issue,” Kennedy wrote.

On Monday, the Gurley Flynn monument was gone.

“Through their public statements, the City of Concord made clear they were not advocating to keep the marker up,” Ben Vihstadt, Sununu’s spokesman, said Monday. “In their communications with the state, it was learned that the marker was located on state property, not city property as previously believed, and therefore the marker was removed this morning.”

Far-left supporters of the marker and Flynn’s legacy cried foul.

“The policies of the Division of Historical Resources specify the conditions under which markers can be retired,” said Arnie Alpert, who, with Mary Lee Sargent, initiated the proposal for the Flynn marker. “Even under the policy’s latest revision, there is no provision for markers to be retired because of objections to their content.”

The pair continue to defend the marker saying Flynn is a historically significant person born in New Hampshire and should be recognized. “We still say that under the department’s own guidelines, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s birthplace in Concord is a fitting location for a historical marker,” Sargent said.

Flynn was an outspoken member of the American left who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, which she was later kicked out of because she chose to join the Communist Party. In fact, Flynn joined in 1936, during the infamous purges under Soviet leader Josef Stalin that drove many other Westerners out of the party.

Flynn made no apologies for her Communism. In a May 6, 1940 speech, Flynn praised the USSR.

“On May Day, we salute the Soviet Union, land of socialism, land of peace and plenty, the great ideal of labor since time immemorial, the cooperative commonwealth of all who toil,” Flynn said.

Flynn was convicted in 1951 for fomenting the overthrow of the United States, later became head of the Communist Party USA, and was given a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square by a grateful Soviet Union when she died in 1964.

Alpert and Sargent continue to insist the marker should have remained and that Sununu lacked the authority to remove it as he did. They say that, under the state’s guidelines, markers are only removed if they are in disrepair or contain text with factual errors. The state also requires a public hearing before any marker is removed.

“None of the conditions for the marker’s removal have been met,” Alpert said. 

Vihstadt, however, said the state acted correctly in taking down the sign.

All policies and guidelines were followed in removing this controversial marker,” Vihstadt said.

Concord Officials To Sununu: Stop Pushing Your Marker Mess on Us

If Gov. Chris Sununu wants to do something about the Historical Highway Marker honoring notorious Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, he is free to do it himself, according to the Concord City Council.

Concord Mayor James Bouley said Monday night he was confused by the letter he got last week from Sarah Stewart, commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, asking the city to request that the state remove the Flynn marker.

“We did not approve any marker, we don’t have that authority; we don’t approve the marker’s text, we don’t have that authority; and lastly, we can’t remove something that is not our responsibility from your property,” Bouley said.

The Flynn marker angered Republican members of the state’s Executive Council, prompting Sununu to blame Concord leadership and demand that it be removed. 

“Why Concord would want to put this in the first place, God knows,” Sununu said Friday on WGIR radio. “Just tell us to take it down, and we’ll take it down. I’d love to take it down.”

The problem for Sununu — or perhaps the solution — is that the marker is the state’s responsibility from beginning to end, according to Concord City Attorney James Kennedy. He said the marker was placed in the city by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and sits on state land. The marker features text about Flynn’s life and Communist affiliation that was approved by the state and additionally includes a seal of the State of New Hampshire. The fact that now Sununu and Stewart are asking the city to request its removal makes little sense, Kennedy said.

“That’s a curious concept to me,” Kennedy said.

According to Kennedy, if the state wants to remove the marker, it is free to follow the state law governing that process. 

Executive Councilor Janet Stevens (R-Rye) also places the responsibility at the feet of state government.

“The disgraceful placement of a historic highway marker in Concord, honoring Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a devout Stalinist and prominent organizer in the Communist Party, has elevated the need for an overhaul of the process for awarding historic markers in our state,” Stevens said in an editorial for NHJournal.

“There was a clear lack of common sense in allowing this new marker to be approved,” Steven added.

The state did seek Concord’s approval to install the sign, which went up on May 1. But Bouley and the councilors said that was a courtesy and had more to do with checking traffic visibility and general construction safety. That has not stopped Sununu from hammering Concord over the state marker.

“I don’t think it should ever have been put up; I don’t think Concord should have been advocating for it,” Sununu said.

According to available public records, the City of Concord never advocated for the Flynn marker. Liberal activists Arnie Alpert and Mary Lee Sargent petitioned the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for the Flynn maker based on her historical significance. Flynn was an early labor activist, a civil rights pioneer, and a supporter of women’s access to birth control as well as the head of the Communist Party in America. 

Flynn was kicked out of the ACLU, which she helped found, because of her membership in the Community Party. She joined in 1936, three years after the USSR murdered close to 9 million people in a genocidal famine known as the Holodomor, and was about to start killing millions more. When she died in 1964, Flynn received a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square with 25,000 people attending.

While Sununu has blamed Concord for the whole mess, and Stewart has claimed her department had no input in the text, records obtained Monday by NHJournal show otherwise. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources employee Amy Dixon worked on researching and editing the proposed text for the Flynn marker, even adding that Flynn was a supporter of women’s suffrage. Dixon then presented the marker proposal to Concord officials and explained all expenses would be the state’s responsibility. 

Kennedy said that under U.S. Supreme Court rulings protecting the First Amendment, cities are unable to regulate the content of signs put up in their jurisdictions. 

City Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said if the state is upset about the sign, it can take it down anytime. “If the state wants to remove the sign, they can do so.”

City Councilor Zandra Rice Hawkins suggested Concord may still put up its own marker to commemorate Flynn, in which case the state would be actually powerless as opposed to engaging in the current game of blame-shifting.

“I’d be disappointed if the state removed the marker and tried to whitewash history,” Hawkins said.