Progressive activists who pushed for a state marker honoring a Granite State Stalinist are suing, claiming the Sununu administration did not follow procedure when it took down the historic plaque.
State officials changed the rules, then broke them, in the scramble to remove the sign honoring notorious Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, according to the lawsuit filed this week.
The Historic Highways marker for Flynn, the former U.S. Communist Party Chair convicted of advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, was removed from its Concord location on May 15, less than two weeks after it was unveiled. The marker is currently in the possession of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
Now, liberal activists Arnie Alpert and Mary Lee Sargent, represented by lawyer and former Executive Counselor Andru Volinsky, accuse Gov. Chris Sununu and others of breaking the law to get rid of the Flynn marker in the face of community backlash.
‘The State has the unequivocal legal duty to follow its own duly adopted laws and not to act by the fiat of the Governor and members of the Executive Council,” Volinsky wrote.
Alpert and Sarget want a judge to order the marker to be erected once again at its original Concord location.
The marker was unveiled on May 1, and the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources promoted Flynn’s tribute. That did not sit well with Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, who lodged a complaint at the May 3 Executive Council meeting.
“Well, I’m going to say that this particular person has no historic value here in Concord. And this person, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, was a profound Communist who died a Soviet, who was anti-American,” Kenney said. “I am dead set against this. And I think it’s an embarrassment that we have a program that allows us to put Communists on historical markers and then say, ‘Oh, that’s part of our history.’ It’s not part of my history.”
In the days that followed, Flynn’s record as an unrepentant Stalinist who supported the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War and received a Red Square burial came to light. As members of the public began to speak out, Sununu vowed to get rid of the marker and blamed Concord City Council members for approving its placement.
Concord officials rejected that argument, pointing out that the marker is a state sign for a state program approved and funded by the state.
The marker was removed on May 15 and is currently in the possession of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
In a statement regarding the lawsuit, Sununu welcomed Alpert and Sargent’s court case, saying criticizing the government is an important part of the American Way.
“America is a free country, and we appreciate their ability to sue the government for a decision they might disagree with — a privilege not afforded to citizens in communist countries. An avowed Communist who benefited from a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square should not be celebrated in New Hampshire. All policies were followed when removing this Anti-American sign, and it will not be coming back under my watch,” Sununu said.
The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources changed the rules for removing Historic Highway Markers after that May 3 meeting, allowing for removing markers that could be deemed inappropriate. However, according to the lawsuit, the new rules still required that the decision go to the Historical Resources Council.
According to the lawsuit, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Commissioner Sarah Stewart ignored the rules and, on May 12, ordered that the sign be removed.
“Commissioner Stewart did not consult the State Historical Resources Council as required by the newly amended policy,” Volinsky wrote. “Nor was the reason for retirement officially recorded in the minutes of the State Historical Resources Council also as required by the newly amended policy.”
Flynn was born in 1890 in Concord and became a socialist activist in her teens. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1936, joined the Community Party, becoming the U.S. party chair in 1961.
She joined the Communist Party during Josef Stalin’s deadly purge and high-profile show trials, facts known to the public at the time. When Flynn joined in 1936, the Soviets had already murdered nearly 9 million people in Ukraine and other territories in what is now known as the Holodomor. Another 1.2 million were about to be killed in Stalin’s great purge.
Her membership in the party got her expelled from the ACLU in 1940 when the civil rights groups formally denounced Communism. A decade later, she was found guilty under the Smith Act of advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence.
The Soviet government gave Flynn a state funeral in Red Square, with more than 25,000 people attending.