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Barrington council decides not to create flag policy

Council members say they will decide each request individually

By Josh Bickford
Posted 8/5/20

The Barrington Town Council appeared poised to establish a flag-flying policy during its July 27 meeting.

A draft was written, edits were suggested and endorsed, and the town solicitor completed …

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Barrington council decides not to create flag policy

Council members say they will decide each request individually


The Barrington Town Council appeared poised to establish a flag-flying policy during its July 27 meeting.

A draft was written, edits were suggested and endorsed, and the town solicitor completed his review of the document. But in the end, council members opted against creating a policy.

They decided that Barrington was small enough that if someone wants to propose flying a flag on the town hall pole, something other than the American flag, all he or she needs to do is request it through a council member. Then the council will decide on whether to allow the flag or not.

"They've got our emails," Barrington Town Council President Michael Carroll said.

Barrington is not the first town to consider a flag-flying policy.

In Warren, council members recently allowed the Black Lives Matter flag to be raised on the town hall pole. That decision yielded questions and comments regarding how the town will handle flag requests in the future. The Bristol Town Council approved a flag policy a few weeks ago, following a decision to allow the Black Lives Matter flag to be raised, as well as a "first responders" flag.

During the discussion on July 27, Barrington Town Council member Steve Boyajian said establishing a policy in Barrington would serve as a statement that council members here were unable to decide which flags to allow and which ones to deny.

Mr. Boyajian said that if an issue similar to the one in Bristol surfaced in Barrington, council members would exercise their best judgment.

Mr. Boyajian also said that he does not want people to think that every cause warrants a flag being flown outside the town hall. He said the decision to allow the Pride flag to be flown during the month of June in Barrington was important as it echoed the message of the cause — that they were "out in the open." He added that flying an "Earth flag" on Earth Day did nothing to enhance the message of Earth Day.

Fellow council member Jacob Brier agreed with Mr. Boyajian, adding that establishing a policy would not change how a decision would ultimately be made. In fact, establishing a new policy, he said, might encourage more people and groups to request their own flags to be flown outside Barrington Town Hall.

Council member Joy Hearn said she could go either way on the issue — supporting the policy or opting against it. She added that it might be helpful to have a framework for decision-making.

Councilor Kate Weymouth shared a similar comment, in the end stating that drafting a policy seemed like a solution in search of a problem.

Flag letters

The idea of establishing a flag policy also followed a recent exchange of letters to the editor regarding the issue.

Members of the Barrington United Veterans Council wrote in opposition to the town's endorsement of flying the Pride flag on the town hall pole during the month of June. The letter carried the headline "Only American flag should fly on town property."

It stated, in part: "It is the position of the United Veterans Council that the rainbow flag represents a political movement and it is our belief that the town’s American flag displays should remain apolitical. We feel that out of respect for the diversity of all the citizens of this municipality, partisan flags of political and social movements should not be flown under the American flag on public land."

The letter was signed by Barrington UVC members Paul Dulchinos, William Groves, Charles Brule, Luigi Carusi, Al Girard, Frank Santoro, Bart Stanzione and Michael Tripp.

Barrington Town Council member Jacob Brier responded to the letter with one of his own.

He wrote, in part: "I understand there are some people who have a more restricted view of what should be displayed on a town’s flag pole, including those who believe the US flag should fly alone. I’ve never given much weight to the arguments of exclusivity. I believe we can reach out to and learn from more people through acts of inclusion rather than exclusion. Adorning our flag pole with displays of honor add, in my mind, rather than subtract."

Scott Douglas, a former member of the committee on appropriations and a member of the US military, also shared a letter on the topic. He wrote that the POW MIA flag routinely flies above the town hall.

"Any flag that adds to or emphasizes another aspect of the 'whole of us' is good by me," Mr. Douglas wrote. "In fact, I'd be happier if we had a whole rotating selection of them that captured anything protected in our constitution (maybe we could have a design contest for flags to represent the 13th amendment, or the 19th for that matter, to be part of the line-up).

"No flag flown higher, to be sure. But there are plenty of good ones to accompany it (the American flag), depending on the mood. I still look fondly on the scrappy 'Don't Tread on Me' Navy Jack I wore on my left shoulder while on deployment, while the stars and stripes always sat on my right one."

Mr. Douglas added that the U.S. flag is its own statement of diversity — "It is the essence of shouting individuality, diversity, and unity - all at the same time."

He finished with "So kneeling, standing or hand on heart, it's my flag as much as yours. And having carried it with me to war three times, I for one don't mind sharing the space."

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