Niagara Falls Reporter
Home | Archive / Search
JAN 20 - JAN 28, 2015

Tragedy in Paris Holds Lesson for Niagara Falls

By Anna M. Howard

January 20, 2015


Paris and Niagara Falls are two cities largely unknown for having any similarities.

Paris is quite possibly the most famous, most glamorous and most historic European city.

When you think of Paris you think of Ernest Hemingway and the legendary expatriate American writers, romance, high fashion and fine food. When you think of Niagara Falls you think of a spectacular waterfalls, not high fashion, glamour and romance.

Even though four thousand aviation miles separates Paris from Niagara Falls there were two recent occurrences – one very tragic and one exceedingly foolish – connecting Niagara Falls to Paris though the controversial subject of free speech and political comment.

Here in Niagara Falls the issue of free speech and political satire raised its head in late November as former city councilman Sam Fruscione circulated a cartoon in city hall that had been created by local artist Gerald Skrlin.

That cartoon set off councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, then acting mayor, and Maria Brown, the acting controller, on a tear as the two women took the artwork to the media and sought to have Fruscione charged by city police chief, Bryan DalPorto. Exactly what law Grandinetti and Brown thought Fruscione had broken was never made clear, but the police chief saw the cartoon as the free speech issue it was and no charges were pressed.

That controversial Fruscione/Skrlin cartoon featured a lampooning rendering of Brown calling various Dyster administration officials to dinner as they fed from the public trough.

As political cartoons go it was fairly white bread but in Niagara Falls the simplest things get complicated and it created a storm of outrage. So thin is the skin of some at city hall that they couldn’t put the harmless artwork into perspective as the simple political commentary it was.

As the cartoon tempest in an inkpot kicked up a storm, a genuine snow storm of historic proportions blew into Buffalo off Lake Erie. The storm paralyzed the region and drew Governor Cuomo to the Queen City for several days as he directed state efforts to fight the natural disaster.

Meanwhile, back at city hall, a political cartoon commanded the attention of Niagara Falls’ major political players.

A little more than a month later, on January 7th, Muslim terrorists burst into the offices of the Paris humor magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and murdered a dozen people.

Why the mass murder? Because the magazine, a well-known iconoclastic periodical that has been in publication for more than 40 years, had dared to publish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

The murders at Charlie Hebdo (the magazine was named in homage to Charlie Brown of the Peanuts comic) outraged France and the world, causing one million French citizens to take to the streets in protest of the atrocity.

But this wasn’t the first time a cartoon or commentary regarding the prophet Mohammed caused loss of life. Similar murders took place in Holland and Denmark in recent years.

The distance from Paris to Niagara Falls is four thousand aviation miles.

The distance from the horrific tragedy of the Charlie Hedbo murders is light years from the foolishness of the “city hall cartoon caper” but there are free speech lessons transferable from Paris to Niagara Falls.

France has something to teach the United States and our city regarding political satire, social commentary and free speech.

France was our fledgling nation’s first ally. They sent troops and supplies to the American Colonies during the American Revolution. After 9-11 the first international dignitary to visit President Bush to express condolences and pledge support in the fight against terrorism was the French premier.

We’ve come to a curious place in our nation’s history. While there are moves both nationally and locally to limit free speech, the public must not let nefarious elements that would silence speech and expression have their way.

The freedoms we take for granted are not going to be lost overnight, they will be lost incrementally, the way breaking waves slowly, but inevitably, reduce a shore line.

The January 7th tragedy in Paris and the foolishness over a Niagara Falls City Hall cartoon are light years apart in reality, yet are connected by the thread of freedom of speech.

This now-famous Gerald Skrlin cartoon (top of page) enraged certain anti-first amendment city hall officials and they tried to arrest the cartoon’s distributor, Sam Fruscione. But pro-frist amendment Police Supt. Bryan DalPorto (above) rejected the insane notion that someone should be arrested for distributing a cartoon.






Now That Medical Marijuana is Legal in New York...
Council Resolution Limiting Public Speech Attacks First Amendment
Somebody’s Got To Do It; We are Charlie Hebdo!
Why We Chose to Publish the Hebdo Cartoons When Nobody Else Will
Dyster Keeps Spending Casino Cash as Casino Revenue Falls
Will Kinky Bills Coach Consider Friendly QB to Fill Top Position?
Touma: City Needs Casino Spending Plan
DiLaura: An Open Letter to John Boehner
City Golfers Tee-off on New "Progressive Tax" at Hyde Park Golf Course
Tragedy in Paris Holds Lesson for Niagara Falls
Dyster’s removal of John Cahill does not compute
Blind Dog in a Meat Market - Another Skrlin Masterpiece of Stunning Art and Political Commentary
Only in North Tonawanda: Schwandt to Fill Pappas’s Seat, Who Filled Ortt’s Seat
Vaping Community Expected to Opposed Erie County Law at Hearing
Letters to the Editor
Ryan Promises to Take Bills to Promised Land
Lorigo, Conservatives Gear Up for 2015 Political Season
Hancock Drone Protester Convicted on 'Unexpected' New Charge
Crime Blotter
Where's Skurka? Presenting Theory on the Shroud of Turin
City Hall Jokes!

Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina