jUNe Day marked with protest, family events
WESTPORT — Care and consideration of the global community were Saturday’s theme in Westport, with a demonstration for the children in U.S. detention centers coinciding with the annual jUNe Day celebration.
James Naughton, a two-time Tony Award-winning actor and singer, who lives in Weston, helped organize a well-attended protest on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.
Named for the woman who founded Westport’s jUNe Day in 1965, the Post Road bridge over the Saugatuck River was replete with flags this weekend representing numerous countries in celebration of the United Nations.
Moved by the plight of the children, per news coverage, Naughton was moved to action.
“On Tuesday night I emailed a couple of friends,” he said, including G. Kenneth Bernhard, Westport’s former state representative and a local attorney.
“He said, ‘Maybe we should march on the bridge for therapy,’ ” said Naughton, with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal also getting word of the pop-up event.
“Visiting these detention centers is really stomach-churning,” Blumenthal said as cars drove by honking their horns. “I’ve been to a lot of bad places, as we all have, but human beings should never be treated as these children have.”
“It’s totally unworthy of America,” he said, calling it a “calculated policy ... to discourage people from coming here.”
Meanwhile, over at Saugatuck Elementary School, for the 55th year in a row, international families of United Nations employees were welcomed to Westport for a day of fun in the sun.
“This is an opportunity for the town of Westport and the U.N. Hospitality Committee ... to host United Nations delegates and staff for a day of fun and recreation,” said Bill Hass, vice president of the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut, “and to give them a chance to see what life is like outside New York City.”
Haas, a former U.N. employee, first discovered Westport in 1977, when he and his wife, Joan, came to visit on jUNe Day, moving here some years later.
“That’s how we got to know Westport,” he said.
A couple hundred employees and their families enjoyed breakfast and speakers at the opening ceremony in the school cafeteria, after which they chose one of several places throughout town to visit, including Compo Beach, Longshore, Earthplace and Wakeman Town Farm.
“On behalf of my fellow residents, I welcome all of you,” said First Selectman Jim Marpe, “and wish you a lively, relaxing and fun-filled day in Westport.”
“Anyone from the U.N., anyone from anywhere, is welcome here in Westport,” he said.
“It’s very meaningful for us to have this very tangible display of hospitality,” said Johnston Barkat, mediator with the International Monetary Fund, addressing the crowd over breakfast.
“It’s easy to talk about welcoming people,” he said, but this demonstrated proof.
“You’re a beacon in this difficult world, where patriotism seems the flavor of the month,” said Christian Saunders, assistant secretary-general in the Department of Operational Support. “Thank you for opening your town and facilities.”
“Thank you to the residents of Westport for really opening up your hearts and welcoming us here,” said Catherine Pollard, under secretary-general for the General Assembly and Conference Management. “I’m so pleased.”
“It’s my first jUNe Day and I really feel very privileged to share this experience with our generous hosts,” she said.
“Today is a day that we celebrate the importance of the United Nations in promoting world peace,” Pollard said.