Groton’s Weird Debate Over Rocks and the Word “All” Is Over

The rocks will stay.

To most, the words “all are welcome” mean exactly what you’d think they do: that all are welcome. But not in the Town of Groton, at least for a very vocal minority of concerned citizens, who for the last several months have butted heads with their community over the phrase, taking their gripes all the way to Town Meeting—Massachusetts’ centuries-old arena for gripes big and immeasurably small.

The issue, which has garnered the sleepy Massachusetts municipality national media attention, began months ago, when plans were announced to install eight roadside stone markers with the cheery three-word message around town. The town would donate the granite and labor, donors would chip in a few thousand dollars to make the inscriptions, and some time capsules would be buried underneath them for posterity. One of the rocks would be placed outside a soon-to-be-finished Hindu temple.

But the message carried some problematic weight to a few Grotonians, who argued that not everyone is on board with “all” people.

Some worried “all” might beckon gangsters and terrorists. The Lowell Sun reports that two residents sent a letter to the town arguing the rocks “could be an invitation to those with a criminal or terrorist background who may want to do harm to the Town” and “could make the Town vulnerable to potential future lawsuits.” At a meeting of the local board of selectmen, an attorney insisted that it could not.

Others saw it as thinly veiled political opposition to Donald Trump. “It might include Groton as a sanctuary city,” argued Groton resident Jack Saball, according to the Boston Globe. “We do not want someone to read this and think this town has a political agenda.”

But all was resolved when the matter came up for a vote Monday night at the Groton’s Town Meeting, on whether the town should remove the eight signs, and possibly replace them with ones that read only “welcome.” After “two dozen people weighed in” on the matter, Town Meeting voted to keep them.