Society & Culture

Black Lives Matter flag will fly over Barre – but so will ‘Back the Blue’

By Guy Page

The Barre City Council Tuesday night resolved heated debate over flying the Black Lives Matter flag in City Hall Park by narrowly deciding to let it fly next month, and then take it down and fly 22 other flags, one per month, through October 2022 – including the ‘Back the Blue’ banner.

A pro-BLM flag supporter on the Council condemned the “hatred” of the pro-police flag, and said there are people in Barre who “cannot see past their hatred.”

The Council decided to display 23 different flags in City Hall Park over the next two years – starting with BLM next month, and ending with the flag of the U.S. Navy. The park, across from City Hall, also features the famous “Youth Triumphant” statue, aka the Naked Soldier with a Sword.

The Council was split 3-3 until Mayor Lucas Herring cast the tie-breaker for the 23-flag solution, upsetting BLM supporters who said it weakened an original, BLM-flag-only proposal. Councilor Teddy Waszazak expressed their disappointment on a Facebook post:

“Due to manipulation of the agenda and one Councilor’s reactionary views, a Thin Blue Line flag will fly in January (not without STRONG dissent from myself and Councilors Reil and Hemmerick), and flags were scheduled out through 2022. I am extremely disappointed in the Mayor and the 3 other Councilors who voted for this.

“However, I am jubilant that the BLM flag will fly in Barre, one way or another. Let me be perfectly clear; I stand with Black Lives Matter and the movement for Black Lives. I condemn the symbol of hatred that is the Thin Blue Line flag, and I am sorry that I could not deliver a stronger result. Black Lives Matter in Barre, even if there are people here who cannot see past the hatred.”

Councilor John Steinman, who voted for the all-flags plan, struck a note of unity and reconciliation. 

John Steinman

“Last night, on a split decision, the City Council reaffirmed its nonpartisan roots,” City Councilor John Steinman said in a Facebook statement. “After hearing testimony from diametrically opposed viewpoints, it refused to take sides on a national debate. Instead, in the spirit of fair play, the council decided to compromise and fly flags representing differing views.”

“Compromise is essential to the proper governance of our fair city and while it is abundantly clear that certain members of the council were unwilling to compromise, a compromise was enacted that represents the diverse views of our community. Now that all views are represented maybe we can let the divisiveness end and our community heal.”

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14 replies »

  1. John that is fantastic. The higher ground. Thank you. I fail to understand how Councilor Waszazak cannot see how assumptive and hateful his stance and language is.

  2. According the SCOTUS, Content Discrimination is unconstitutional unless strict scrutiny is applied. Typically, if a BLM flag is allowed to be displayed on public property, flags with alternative and sometimes contradictory messages must also be allowed to fly. The exception to the SCOTUS ruling would be, for example, to flying a flag advocating or demonstrating child pornography. But political opinion is typically exempt from extreme scrutiny principles.

    Abraham Lincoln made one of the more salient observations in this reagrd.

    ‘We declare for liberty; but in using the same word we don’t mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name – liberty. And it follows that each of these things is, by the respective parties, called by two different names – liberty and tyranny.’

    This is why we have the third leg of our republic’s stool of governance – the judiciary – to sort out the qualifying differences.

  3. BLM supporter condemning the flying of the back the blue flag referring to the hatred it portrays? Now that’s the pot calling the kettle black,

  4. blm is a Marxist hate organization condemned by many black leaders , but supported by the Democratic party. you have to wonder why , is it the money the blm organization funnels their way?

  5. Why didn’t the spineless chicken—– say no to all of them except the one that matters, the “Stars and Stripes !!!!

  6. I think every white person in Vermont who is so hung ho about BLM should find a black person who can do their job, invite that person to take their job and give up their job and home aand switch lives. Think of it as a real start at reparations. If they’re not willing to do that, then they should shut the hell up and stop posturing and virtue signalling to other white fools. And take those stupid signs down.

  7. Re: the quote by Councilor Steinman, he’s inaccurately characterizing what happened.

    The original agenda included discussion of two flags to be flown, the BLM flag and the Thin Blue Line flag. Steinman’s proposal to change that to 23 flags over 2 years was a late addition to the agenda, was not available to other Councilors for review until the day before the meeting, was not made available to the public at all and was not included on the agenda for the meeting posted on Barre City’s website.

    He’s inaccurately presenting himself as being the reasonable compromiser and the opposition to his measure as being against compromise but that’s a disingenuous mischaracterization of what actually happened, which is that he snuck a measure in at the last minute and the opposition to it was strictly on those grounds.

    There couldn’t have been any other grounds, the way this was pushed through provided insufficient time to review or discuss the material.
    From here I will repeat a comment I originally made on Steinman’s public Facebook page, which is the source of the quote above:

    That’s not a fair or accurate characterization of the views of the Council Members that voted against this measure.

    The “compromise” is two years worth of flags, representing many different groups, but without allowing for any discussion or debate about the majority of them, including from members of the community who may be a part of those various groups.

    The challenge to this measure was not about its merits, per se, but about it being pushed through with very little opportunity for review or discussion.

    You can’t claim to be acting to represent the various diverse elements of our community while giving them almost no chance to have any input in how they’re represented.

    • Mr. Reil, it is clear you do not understand the process or Robert’s rules. Any Councilor can at anytime bring forth a motion, not on the agenda, to be considered by the body, if the body choses to vote on the proposal and the motion passes, the proposal is then put forward at the next meeting for ratification. An item that is warned on the agenda does not need to undergo this extra step. So there was no chicanery, the rules of order were followed.

  8. To address the response to my post:

    First, I had written a reply previously, though I’m not sure it went through, so I’m trying again. This will be a bit different than my earlier post but should complement it if they both go through.

    I do have a general understanding of Robert’s Rules and the overall process, though I will defer to your knowledge of them as you deal with them more frequently than I do.

    That said, you will note, I am sure, that I did not accuse you of violating those rules. If you disagree, please show me where I did so. Further, if any of the actual facts I presented in my post are in error, I would welcome correction.

    My point was that the item was not included on the *posted* agenda for the Nov. 17 meeting (as of this writing, it is still not listed on the version posted on Barre City’s website).

    At best, it was a late addition and given that it included a long list of flags to be flown with very little time (and no warning to the public) for discussion and debate about the specifics of any of those flags, it is disingenuous to point to opposition to that as being anti-compromise and to present oneself as being the champion of reasonable compromise.

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