Rival gun rallies staying, so games have to go
Morrisville, a Bucks County borough of 8,000 residents perched along the Delaware River, is a baseball town. More than 500 children play Little League there, according to league president Dan O'Connell, and in 1955, its squad of preteens won the Little League World Series.
Morrisville, a Bucks County borough of 8,000 residents perched along the Delaware River, is a baseball town.
More than 500 children play Little League there, according to league president Dan O'Connell, and in 1955, its squad of preteens won the Little League World Series.
"You hear about that in this town with the same pride that people talk about the Phils," said Jim Martin, a Morrisville resident and parent of two Little Leaguers.
So it comes with little surprise that some residents are up in arms about a disturbance to the baseball schedule Saturday. O'Connell, at the encouragement of state police, is moving, rescheduling, or canceling about 20 games to avoid two opposing gun-rights rallies to be staged around Williamson Park and its ball fields.
The groups staging the rallies - one protesting gun violence, the other supporting gun ownership rights - continued to state Wednesday that they would not cancel or relocate their events.
The Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Coalition for Peace Action, which is organizing the anti-gun-violence rally, said that it had been planned for weeks and there were no plans to move it now.
"We went through all the proper channels," he said, emphasizing that the only intention is to hold a peaceful demonstration.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, CeaseFirePA, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns all announced Wednesday that they supported the coalition. Former Gov. Ed Rendell and State Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D., Bucks) are scheduled to speak at Saturday's event.
Gun-rights supporters have planned a counterrally to be held near the park. It is expected that some will attend legally bearing firearms. Concerned Gun Owners of Bucks County, a gun-rights group participating in the rally, posted a news release Wednesday saying "the coalition has selfishly put themselves first and the kids last." It urged the coalition to cancel its rally.
William Marsh, a supporter of the gun owners' group, said gun-rights advocates "are duty-bound to appear" Saturday "to challenge the foolish thinking of anyone who would restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens."
Gun supporters would only cancel their event, he added, if the coalition did so, as well.
The decision to move the games was O'Connell's, but many Little League parents are not pleased with the stands of the rally groups.
"This is an enormous waste," Martin said.
Matrin's children are young - a 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter - and he acknowledges that "my son's not going to be Chase Utley."
But he said "nothing is going to change" as a result of the rallies, and his son is disappointed that he may not get to take the field Saturday.
"The only thing that will change" from the rallies, Martin said, "is my kids can't play."
Nicholas Spadea, who has four sons in the league, sent a letter to the coalition asking it to move its rally, since it is to take place between several ball fields.
"It didn't matter what they're speaking about or what they're representing," he said. "I tried to tell them, 'You're simply in the way.' "
Moore defended the coalition's right to assemble there, saying it received the requisite permit from the borough and adding, "It's not our job to coordinate what's happening in Williamson Park that day."
Morrisville Police Lt. Thomas Herron said in an interview Tuesday that the coalition received its permit April 29.
"They had fulfilled all the necessary requirements and a permit was issued to them," he said.
Tom Rossi, a coach in the league, said the demonstrations should be allowed to continue.
"People have a right to assemble," he said. "We have a right to play, but we also have a right to play elsewhere."
But some parents were disappointed that the games were being disturbed.
"Kids can't play baseball that day," Spadea said. "It's that simple."