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Lawsuit: State Broke Rules Removing Communist ‘Rebel Girl’ Marker

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.

Why Did NH Approve A Historic Marker Honoring A Concord Communist?

The Sununu administration approved a new Historical Highway Marker honoring a committed Communist from Concord who received a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square. Now state officials are asking how it happened.

On Monday, May 1 — May Day for the international Socialist movement — the New Hampshire Department of Natural & Cultural Resources unveiled the marker honoring Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who once led the Communist Party USA.

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.

Her decision to join the Communist Party during the period of Josef Stalin’s deadly purge and high-profile show trials is particularly disturbing. In fact, her membership in the party got her expelled from the ACLU in 1940. 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.

Executive Councilor Dave Wheeler (R-Milford) brought up the marker during Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting, expressing his outrage that the state would approve a memorial to an enemy of the United States.

Wheeler said Flynn’s maker in Concord is an insult to every Granite Stater who ever served in the military, including the veteran who led the council’s Pledge of Allegiance before the meeting. “I’m just totally offended by that. I think it’s a slap in the face to the veteran who did our Pledge of Allegiance this morning,” Wheeler said.

Fellow Republican Joe Kenney also voiced his opposition.

“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?”

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, the lone Democrat on the five-member committee, represents the city of Concord, whose Heritage Commission requested the marker. Warmington didn’t comment during the discussion. She also declined to respond to requests for comment from NHJournal.

Gov. Chris Sununu learned of the marker Wednesday morning and was not happy with what he heard during the Governor’s Council meeting.

“I completely agree with the sentiment here,” Sununu said, and he pledged to “dig into” how it happened. He also grilled Sarah Stewart, commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, whose agency oversees the historic marker program.

Stewart claimed her office wasn’t responsible for Flynn’s marker, telling the governor the application came through the city of Concord. “Our agency is not in the business of approving or denying the markers,” Stewart said. “We check for factual accuracy, and we help make sure that the text fits on the space allocated on the marker.”

Sununu was not satisfied with his commissioner’s answer.

“Who at the state level says ‘yes or no,’ regardless of what a town wants?” Sununu asked. “Who at the state level says, ‘We are going to do this, or we’re not going to do that?’”

“There is a criterion that is evaluated by the Division of Historical Resources staff and the State Historical Resources Council,” Stewart acknowledged.

“I’ll tell you what: We’re going to review the whole process,” Sununu said. “The state obviously has authority here, and responsibility — it’s a state marker.”

The state’s rules for the Historical Highway Marker program clearly give Stewart and her agency the power to vet applications and approve or deny them as she sees fit. The rules have been in effect since 1958.

“The DHR shall have the function, including but not limited to, ‘Considering proposals to erect highway historical markers under RSA 236:41. No such marker shall be put in place without division approval,’” the rules state.

Michael Bruno literally wrote the book on the state’s Historical Highway Markers. The author of “Cruising New Hampshire History,” Bruno told NHJournal he was disturbed by the state’s decision to remember Flynn.

“I’m a veteran, and I served in the Cold War,” Bruno said. “I don’t see why we’re commemorating this person.”

Most disappointing for Bruno is the fact that each Historical Highway Marker includes the state seal of New Hampshire. “It looks like an endorsement from the state,” he said.

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert, a New Hampshire activist who was a leader in the left-leaning American Friends Service Committee, defended the marker and Flynn, though he said he couldn’t defend all of her choices.

“She was a significant figure in American history,” Alpert said.

Alpert said Flynn was visiting the Soviet Union in 1964 to work on her memoirs when she died. The state funeral with honors in Red Square can’t be held against her.

“She was dead; she didn’t order up any state funeral,” Alper said.

Alpert said that her 1951 conviction had more to do with the McCarthy-era anti-Communist witch hunts than any threats of violent revolution. Flynn was convicted for believing in Communism, not trying to overthrow the country, he said.

“If she was guilty of anything, she was guilty of her beliefs,” Alpert said.

Still, the timing of her Communist allegiance raises questions. When Smith joined in 1936, the Soviets had already murdered close to 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. When she became the head of the American Communist Party, dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was just a few years removed from serving a decade in the Soviet gulags and internal exile.

“I’m not here to defend every step in the life of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn,” Alpert said.

Flynn had no problem speaking for herself. In a May 6, 1940 speech, she 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.

Cold War Hero Walesa Wants U.S. to Once Again Lead the World

Nobel Prize winner and former president of Poland Lech Walesa said the United States can lead the world into a new era of peace and security. 

“Under American leadership, we can really improve this world,” Walesa said through an interpreter.

Walesa spoke to New Hampshire leaders on Thursday during a joint House and Senate session, as part of his speaking tour across the northeast United States. Walesa said the world has unfinished business with Russia. Now is the time for the world to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose rule is simply a continuation of the old Soviet Union, he said.

“Right now is that propitious moment to finish that task which I failed to accomplish,” he said.

Walesa wanted to completely “disintegrate” the Soviet Union in the 1990s, but was stopped at the time by American politicians, he told the Granite State lawmakers. With Putin sending his army into Ukraine to commit atrocities, the world needs to fight back, he said.

There must be a strong leader on the world stage, Walesa insisted.

“There is one condition for it to be successful, the United States really has to (step into) the role of the leader in the world,” he said. “This is the opportune moment for us to win the final victory.”

Walesa noted he led the Solidarity movement in Poland that helped defeat the old Communist order in his country, setting off the chain of events that would see the Soviet Union collapsed, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, and Germany reunited. But the job wasn’t complete and the world has authoritarian holdovers from the Cold War in Russia and China.

Putin must be defeated in Ukraine, and the United States must impose a better political order on Russia, he said. Otherwise, another Putin will emerge in the next five to 10 years.

Walesa’s message included criticism of the current capitalist order in the West and a lack of guiding principles among people.

“Societies used to believe in a God and many societies have rejected God now,” he said. “This is a world where everyone wants to drive, but there are no traffic regulations.”

Walesa sees the future world as a democratic and globalist, with people moving beyond the need for barriers. It is a world with a free market that takes care of the poor and dispossessed. But to get there, the world needs the United States to lead people to freedom.

“Providence has given you such strong potential. If unwilling, share your potential with Poland and we will try to put it to good use,” he said.

Poland has long been caught between world powers seeking to dominate it.

“We’re between Germany and Russia, who enjoy military socializing if you may remember. They would visit and revisit one another,” he said.

Walesa reminded lawmakers that Poland tried to warn the world about Adolf Hitler before World II and about Josef Stalin at the start of the Cold War, only to be ignored. Now, Poland is leading by helping Ukraine and taking in more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees.

Walesa got standing ovations at the start and end of his speech. But some of his criticisms of capitalism were met with silence, as was his call to confront Russia in a final battle. It didn’t stop Granite State politicians from getting their photos taken with the Cold War icon or tweeting about his speech.

State Rep. Laura Telerski (D-Nashua) called his speech inspiring.

“I heard Lech Walesa speak in Gaston Hall before he served as president of Poland. Today he addresses the @NHHouseofReps and Senate in joint convention. He still inspires,” she tweeted.

“Truly an honor to meet former president of Poland Lech Walesa,” state Rep. Kimberly Rice (R-Hudson) tweeted.