Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Widow speaks out - Wife of fallen trooper: marchers don't understand

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Across the Casco Bay Bridge, at a fund-raiser for the family of New York State Trooper Joseph Longobardo, killed in August while attempting to capture a man who had escaped from a New York jail, members of Maine’s law-enforcement community gathered around the widow of the man murdered by Manning in a 1981 highway shootout.

Donna Lamonaco, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of her husband, New Jersey State Trooper Philip Lamonaco, and a blue bracelet with his name, took questions and hugs from supporters.

She had originally planned to come to participate in a protest against the exhibit at USM, but after university president Richard Pattenaude ordered the paintings removed she converted her visit into a fund-raiser and a chance to thank “all of the Maine law-enforcement officials” who objected to the exhibit.

One of those was Breen Savage, a retired Maine State Police corporal and chairman of the Northeast Conference of the Blue Knights, a law-enforcement motorcycle group.

“The night that Phil died, I was working the Maine Turnpike,” Savage said, recalling that Manning’s group and other violent political-action groups in the 1970s and ’80s had police officers worried they would run into armed men and women during traffic stops.

“Today we call people like that urban terrorists,” Savage said. Then, there was no special word for them, just “outlaws, criminals, crooks.”

Lamonaco said she didn’t mind Manning’s supporters marching so much as she feared they were confused. “You want to march, march,” she said. “If you’re going to march behind a cause, make sure you understand both sides. I don’t feel they understand ... Thomas Manning is nothing but a murderer.”

She did object to people saying Manning had a right to express himself, saying he had lost that right when he went to prison. He can do art, she said, and keep it in his cell.

“You don’t have the right to . . . send it over the walls.”

Now that the paintings are outside the walls, though, she wants to be a living reminder: “I don’t have the right to say you shouldn’t be looking at them, but if you look at them, know the full story of what they represent.”