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A different Fourth of July for southeastern Connecticut

The region celebrated the Fourth of July, 2020, differently on Saturday.

Area parades that traditionally draw hundreds of flag-waving Americans and showcase marching bands, civic groups and young athletes were canceled due to the cornavirus pandemic, and held on line instead.

Groups of people did gather, however, at beaches and protests.

Ocean Beach Park in New London reached its reduced capacity by 9:45 a.m., and with temperatures in the 80s, squares of sand were in high demand at other Southeastern Connecticut destinations, including Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic, where the parking lot was full by noon.

Youth groups organized protests against police brutality in Ledyard and New London.

In Groton, the 41st annual 4th of July parade went virtual, with groups that would ordinarily march along Route 1 submitting video footage that was edited and presented by Groton Municipal Television.

In the video, groups of young submariners in white saluted viewers from the deck of the U.S.S. Nautilus, while the senior Submarine Veterans wore masks as they performed their honorifics without an audience at the Naval Submarine Base. Special Olympics athlete Danny Pineault, one of several grand marshals, issued a patriotic greeting while standing alone on his front lawn, and bands such as the Junior Colonial Westbrook Fife & Drum corps marched alone.

Even before the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the May 25 asphyxiation of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer,  the parade's organizers had chosen a theme of "Declaration of Inclusion," to highlight the efforts of the Groton Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, according to Jerry Lokken, Groton recreation services manager, who has organized the parade for the past 20 years.

The Stonington Historical Society live-streamed a reading of the Declaration of Independence from the steps of the Nathaniel Palmer House rather than hold its annual informal parade through the streets of Stonington Borough followed by the reading in Wadawanuck Square.

One of the few live commemorative events at the region took place at The Leffingwell Inn Museum in Norwich, where reenactors wore masks or face shields along with their colonial garb and encouraged visitors to social distance and use the "18th Century hand sanitizer" offered along with pens to those who wanted to sign the "official" Declaration of Independence.

After delivering a lecture on Connecticut's Sons of Liberty, who organized in November 1765 to demonstrate non-violently against the Stamp Act, and reading passages from the Declaration of Independence, Dayne Rugh, president of the Society of the Founders that operates the museum acknowledged that the United States of 2020 is still striving to become that "more perfect union" mentioned by the Declaration's authors.

"There's quite a number of things happening throughout this country," Rugh said. "There's a lot of uneasiness and uncertainty."

He urged the attendees to be kind and take a moment to reflect on and discuss current events with their neighbors.

"We are all Americans," Rugh said.

k.florin@theday.com

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