A year-long campaign against – specifically Branford’s – will come to temporary hault, stated resident Wayne Cooke in a press release this afternoon.
“For the first time in almost a year, the protest trailer driven by Wayne Cooke will be indefinitely removed from service,” the release stated.
Just about one year ago, after having his property’s farm tax status revoked, Cooke, the present owner of the property where Hilltop Orchard’s used to operate, put a rolling campaign to work. According to the New Haven Register, in October, 2010, Cooke outfitted a trailer with large white signs that read, “BRANFORD TOWN HALL — HOME OF ABUSE OF POWER AND DISHONESTY — *CT Supreme Court,”—“TOWN HALL STOP LYING,” “BRANFORD TOWN HALL DISHONEST — CT Supreme Court." Those signs still adorn the trailer one year later.
Cooke attached the trailer to his Jeep and since then, has been lapping the Green every morning, Monday to Friday, and parking the vehicle outside Town Hall.
Cooke's story has progressed over the year and most recently, the Town his farm tax status if he could show that the land was being farmed. Now growing corn, Cooke appears to be in compliance with the request; paperwork also is a requirement to obtain this tax status. A complicated issue, Branford Patch took a look at the larger implications with the farm tax status or CT490, .
With his focus on avoiding political implications as the campaign season gets underway, Cooke stated that he would be taking the billboard-clad trailer our of service for the time being.
“I don’t want to undermine the very serious civil rights issues that exist between my family and Town Hall by subjecting them to the political process,” Cooke said. “For this same reason, we will not be contributing to any political party."
He added in the release, "Our public protests regarding free speech, unfair taxation, and the subversion of property rights are not,and never were, political in origin, and strike at the heart of the United States Constitution. To avoid any appearance of politicizing these, the trailer will be put away, at least for the next few months."
More recently, several Branford residents, Richard Figaro and Glenn Mallory, put a together to stop Cooke from circling the Green. Though the petitioners had collected 83 signatures, Town Clerk Marianne Kelly could only verify 38 – 50 are needed for a citizen request to be added to the RTM agenda. Despite not formally being able to present the petition, the concern was heard in front of Cooke and the RTM during the public comment portion of the June meeting.
After witnessing the action of the citizens who oppose the loud music he plays from his truck – the tunes are usually “Anchors Away” and the “Marine’s Hymn" – Cooke agreed to take fewer laps with the truck. His regular routine had been parking the truck in front of Town Hall from 9 to 11 a.m. and taking 10 laps around the Green with the music playing.
"People have come to realize what was done to us was wrong,” state Cooke, “and for the time being, that will suffice.”
The First Selectman could not be reached for comment.