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Taking Liberties: Clap Off

 

“Everyone puts their hands together at one point,” said a smiling Darrell Davis as he walked along Main Street in Peekskill New York.

“It’s a fundamental human expression.” Davis said as he slapped his right hand against his left to demonstrate.

“It's human nature. I mean if you agree with something or you approve you clap. It's like laughing. A lot of time it's involuntary.”

And lately Davis, and residents of Peekskill have been clapping loudly and proudly at Peekskill’s weekly city council meetings, many times in opposition to the city’s mayor, Mary Foster.

“There are a lot of issues which we disagree with her,” Davis explained. “I supported her in the last election, but now I don’t and many people don’t.”

In late September Foster responded by banning clapping at all City Council Meetings, an unprecedented move in this picturesque town that borders the Hudson River in upper Westchester County.

Davis, who grew up in Peekskill and other residents are outraged.

“She can’t stop me from clapping,” said one constituent who was at a Tuesday night meeting in October. “I don’t know who she thinks she is.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s freedom of expression,” agreed Davis, a community activist who also who hosts a political radio show in Westchester.

“You can't legislate how people feel, what they agree with,” he continued. “And she's trying to be very heavy handed towards political dissent.”

Foster refused repeated calls from Fox News for comment. But in the past she has described the no clapping rule as a “politeness policy,” designed she said, to establish “decorum” at the public meeting.

Foster’s office recently released a statement over the internet which further explains the rule which she said was necessary to stop a “small group” from intimidating other residents through“Heckling, cat calls, refusal to cede the microphone, and racially charged outbursts.”

“We believe these rules will make residents more comfortable participating in their government,” Foster wrote, “and will protect them from the increasingly charged rhetoric.”

But at least one Constitutional lawyer says the Mayor is has overstepped her bounds.

“It’s wrong,” said Patricia Finn, a lawyer in neighboring Putnam County. “You cannot do that,” she said. “People have a right to be heard.”

Finn says the law, if challenged could be overturned.

I do not think that this law can be upheld,” she said. “It smacks of unconstitutionality.”

“It’s absurd,” agreed Davis. “It’s a political forum. People Clap. You can’t control that.”

Douglas Kennedy currently serves as a correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York.