Black Lives Matter flag will keep flying in Barrington

Councilors reject request to fly ‘Back the Blue’ flag; no official flag policy yet

By Josh Bickford
Posted 9/15/20

Members of the Barrington Town Council pledged their allegiance to the Black Lives Matter flag during a lengthy meeting on Monday night, Sept. 14.

In a 5-0 vote, the council chose to keep flying …

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Black Lives Matter flag will keep flying in Barrington

Councilors reject request to fly ‘Back the Blue’ flag; no official flag policy yet

Posted

Members of the Barrington Town Council pledged their allegiance to the Black Lives Matter flag during a lengthy meeting on Monday night, Sept. 14.

In a 5-0 vote, the council chose to keep flying the Black Lives Matter flag on the Barrington Town Hall flag pole indefinitely. Members said the flag will remain flying until the next council decides what it wants to do; three members of the council are not running for re-election in November.

All five councilors also rejected a request to fly a “Back the Blue” first-responders flag, stating that it would be a potential violation of flag code. The town council also ignored a plea from the Barrington United Veterans Council to keep the town hall flag pole reserved for the American flag, state flag and POW/MIA flag.

Paul Dulchinos, the president of the Barrington veterans group, had planned to share a slideshow with the council members during the Zoom online meeting, but settled for describing the slides. He explained how the town’s flag pole had initially stood in a different location at the town hall, but was moved in 2005 to share the space with the veterans memorial.

Mr. Dulchinos said the veterans council’s official position is that it believes all black lives matter, but the veterans organization does not support groups that condone or allow violence, looting, rioting or lawless behavior. He said the Barrington veterans council wants to protect the dignity of the veterans memorial.

“For us, this is important,” he said. “As veterans, we are the guardians of the flag.”

Mr. Dulchinos said the local veterans organization was proposing a “clean” and “simple” approach to the town’s flag pole — he said the only flags that should be allowed to fly there are the U.S. flag, the Rhode Island state flag and the POW/MIA flag. Mr. Dulchinos offered a policy that mirrored the one passed by the Warren Town Council recently.

Let’s keep politics out of it, Mr. Dulchinos added.

“We’ve descended into mob rule,” he said. “We don’t need outside groups coming in to divide us.”

Mr. Dulchinos said he would also support a council decision to erect a second flag pole in a different location — away from the veterans memorial — upon which officials could fly whatever flags they choose.

Town Councilor Jacob Brier said that not all people in town feel like the American flag represents them.

The council took no immediate action on the veterans' proposal. Instead, Mr. Brier said he will revisit his proposed flag policy and present a new version at the October council meeting. His initial version of a policy would continue to give members of the town council, and the town manager, the power to decide which flags fly on the town hall pole. It also stated that the Pan-African flag would fly in February in honor of Black History Month.

Residents rip Brier

Chace Kazounis, Lisa Daft and TR Rimoshytus took turns ripping Mr. Brier for views he expressed in a letter to the editor last week.

Mr. Brier had questioned the motive of residents — he called them “Barringtonians” — when they proposed flying the “Back the Blue” flag on the town hall flag pole in honor of the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy. In the letter, he wrote “I don’t believe the intent is about 9/11. It’s: they got theirs, we get ours.”

Ms. Daft, Ms. Kazounis and Mr. Rimoshytus were among a group of people who had made the request to honor first-responders with a flag at the town hall. Ms. Daft was the first to address Mr. Brier. She said she was mad about his comments and found it disturbing that a sitting member of the town council would belittle their request.

“That was insulting, Councilman Brier,” she said, adding that it was inappropriate for him to put words in their mouths, misinterpreting their request.

Ms. Daft added that all flags matter. She said the town council needs to draft a policy about flags at the town hall.

Ms. Kazounis was even stronger in her response, telling Mr. Brier, “Shame on you.” She said the group’s intent was to honor those people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and nothing else.

“I’m sorry you made it political,” she added.

In his letter, Councilor Brier also questioned the timing of the request to fly the Back the Blue flag. Ms. Kazounis said the timing was because it is now Sept. 11. She also said she found it ironic that Mr. Brier used the term “Barringtonian” in a negative manner.

Mr. Rimoshytus said the council needed to come up with a policy. He said he was disappointed that the town manager initially rejected his request to fly the Back the Blue flag and that the Black Lives Matter flag would keep flying. He said the comments questioning the sincerity of his request were wrong; Mr. Rimoshytus then went on to recount incidents from his job as a firefighter that have been very difficult, dealing with death and tragedy. He offered two proposals to the council — one that would only allow for the U.S., state and POW/MIA flags to be flown on the town hall pole, and a second that called for additional flag poles to be erected to fly other flags.

He said he was not opposing anyone else’s cause.

Opposed to a policy

Some people attending the council meeting opposed the idea of drafting a formal flag policy.

Trinki Brueckner said the decision about which flag to fly should remain with the council. She said that if citizens do not like how the council members decide, then they can vote for new councilors at the next election.

Libbi Gildea told the council that flying a Back the Blue flag at the town hall would send the wrong message to people in Barrington, as well as folks driving past the town hall.

Mariana Silva-Buck said the council did not need to have a flag-flying policy, and that councilors should continue to make their own decisions about which flags to fly. Lisa Lowenstein also opposed the idea of drafting a flag-flying policy.

Katherine Quinn shared her praise for Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha and his decision to raise the Black Lives Matter flag at the town hall.

Kelvin Misiurski also thanked the town manager for his leadership with the “health and well-being of the community.”

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