Barrington residents’ request: Will you fly our flags?

Councilors reject some requests, still considering others

By Josh Bickford
Posted 2/24/21

Karen Rasnick said she is not a political person.

But after attending the Feb. 1 online town council meeting, the longtime Barrington resident grew very concerned with the ongoing flag issue in …

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Barrington residents’ request: Will you fly our flags?

Councilors reject some requests, still considering others

Posted

Karen Rasnick said she is not a political person.

But after attending the Feb. 1 online town council meeting, the longtime Barrington resident grew very concerned with the ongoing flag issue in town. She said she could not understand why the Barrington Town Council members would continue to fly the Black Lives Matter flag after it became very clear that it was dividing residents and making people very upset.

She considered what to do, and finally settled on submitting a flag request of her own.

So, earlier this month, Mrs. Rasnick filled out an application requesting the town fly the Autism Awareness flag on the town hall flagpole for the month of April — April is Autism Awareness month. Her request is one of at least four submitted to the town.

Mrs. Rasnick said Autism Awareness is an important issue for her family and many more across Barrington. Her daughter, Rachel, is on the autism spectrum, and over the last few years, Mrs. Rasnick has become much more involved with the issue.

“This affects everybody,” she said. “…everybody knows someone who has autism… everyone should be able to relate to this.”

Mrs. Rasnick’s request states that many people are dealing with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), and that it would be a wonderful gesture if Barrington showed its support for those families living with autism each and every day.

“It’s non-political. Somebody should be reaching out,” she said. “They (town council members) are so close-minded to think this doesn’t affect their lives.”

Late Friday night, Mrs. Rasnick received an email from Barrington Town Council member Jacob Brier. He wrote that he wanted to talk to Mrs. Rasnick about ways Barrington could better support people “who learn, think and socialize differently…” He also wrote that he had asked the town manager to explore illuminating the town hall in blue lights to generate awareness about autism.

However, he stopped short of supporting her flag request.

“At this time, I’m not comfortable sponsoring a flag-raising resolution,” he wrote. “But in addition to the lights, I do want to find substantive changes we can make in town to better include and create equity for Barringtonians with ASD and their families.”

Last year, Mr. Brier sponsored a resolution to have the town fly the pride flag each June on the town hall flagpole. He also voted in favor of continuing to fly the Black Lives Matter flag on the town hall flagpole. It has flown for six months and will be taken down on March 3.

Mrs. Rasnick was very disappointed with Mr. Brier’s response to her request. She said she was unable to sleep on Friday night.

When asked if he would be sponsoring any of the four flag requests, Mr. Brier said he did not want to comment.

On Sunday morning, Mrs. Rasnick received some good news. Council member Carl Kustell sent her an email stating that he was supportive of her request.

“I cannot speak for my colleagues, but from my point of view, supporting Autism Awareness is exactly the kind of objective for which the flag ordinance was passed,” Mr. Kustell wrote.

He added that someone else in town had expressed interest in flying the same Autism Awareness flag on the town hall flagpole, and suggested they work together on the request.

On Monday, council member Annelise Conway wrote to Mrs. Rasnick to say that she too would be sponsoring the flag request. “Thank you for standing up for ASD families,” Ms. Conway added.

Freedom & Prosperity

Barrington resident Matthew Fletcher also submitted an application to have a flag flown on the town hall flagpole.

Mr. Fletcher’s application calls for a blue flag emblazoned with the words “Freedom & Prosperity.”

Mr. Fletcher said he has not been able to secure a co-sponsor for his flag, despite respectfully arguing his case at length with two members of the town council.

“If I were in their shoes, why not just fly any appropriate flag that gets requested?” Mr. Fletcher wrote in an email to the Barrington Times.

“Especially when such requests come from people who reside on the ‘other side’ of the political spectrum. This would help show the ‘unity’ that everyone seems to be calling for. We always hear how our town ‘celebrates diversity’ and we are told to be ‘tolerant,’ but yet they don't seem inclined to celebrate or tolerate a request from a different perspective.”

Mr. Kustell, who is still considering two of the four flag request applications, said he would not support the request from members of the Barrington United Veterans Council to fly the “Keep Politics Off The Pole” flag, as it is “inherently self-contradictory.” He did not comment on the Freedom & Prosperity flag.

Mr. Kustell said Barrington can fly appropriate flags to express solidarity with marginalized communities and enhance a community-wide sense of belonging.

Mr. Fletcher said the Freedom & Prosperity flag would represent many people who currently feel marginalized.

“I told them about the many marginalized conservatives and Trump supporters who are being censored, kicked out of public forums, blacklisted, fired, attacked (physically and otherwise), threatened, etc. I didn't get any real answer to this, I honestly think they might just be ignorant of what is currently happening,” Mr. Fletcher wrote.

Also, the Freedom & Prosperity flag would signal a measure of support for the many residents who have been impacted by Covid-19, Mr. Fletcher said.

“I argued that the COVID lockdown measures infringed upon many of our basic freedoms and that it would be nice if the town could send the message that it believes such freedoms are important. Nope,” Mr. Fletcher wrote.

“I told them the ‘Prosperity’ piece would send the message to small business owners who have been devastated, that the town stands with them. To this, among other unworthy arguments, I was told we are ‘all in this together.’ Yeah, tell that to the guy who is losing his business.”

Barrington Town Council President Michael Carroll said he does not intend to sponsor the Freedom & Prosperity flag.

“I don’t think those values are threatened, nor do I believe that our failure to fly such a flag will lead any reasonable person to conclude that the people of Barrington, acting through their Town Council, support ‘slavery and poverty,’” Mr. Carroll wrote.

The council president said that while he does not intend to sponsor any flag requests this month, he will consider requests for the future.

“For example, I intend to support the flying of the Pride Flag in June and I want to see a flag honoring our first responders in September for the anniversary of the 9/11/01,” he wrote.

Italian flag request

Barrington resident Robert Hamel submitted a flag request to the Barrington Town Council on Feb. 5, to have the town fly the flag of Italy or Sicily flag.

Mr. Hamel, a member of La Bella Sicikia Society in Bristol and Italian American Alliance, asked that either flag be flown for the month of October in recognition of Italian American Month.

“There are many Italian Americans in the East Bay,” Mr. Hamel wrote. “Some of us remember the brutal lynching of Italian Immigrants in New Orleans in 1891, the thousands of Sicilians enslaved during the Middle Ages, and the contributions to society by Italians and Italian Americans. It would be fitting to honor them as the Town of Barrington has chosen to honor other groups…”

Veterans’ request

It appears most members of the Barrington Town Council are not interested in sponsoring the flag request submitted by the Barrington United Veterans Council.

The group was the first to file an application to fly a flag on the town hall flagpole — their proposal was to fly a red, white and blue flag bearing the words “Respect The Flag Keep Politics Off The Pole.”

Said Mr. Kustell: “…Barrington can fly appropriate flags to express solidarity with marginalized communities and enhance a community-wide sense of belonging. Unless I misunderstand the purpose, the proposed banner would contradict that notion. While a flag supporting a political party would be inappropriate and while it may not be the most meaningful measure we can take to support inclusivity, I heard directly from members of the LGBTQ+ community that flying the Pride Flag last June meant a lot. Barrington should not retreat from reaffirming its welcoming nature.”

Ms. Conway said she would consider each flag request individually, adding that the Barrington UVC request seems “counterproductive as it is doing what it asks us not to do.” She said she declined to sponsor that request.

Mr. Carroll agreed with his fellow councilors.

“If you believe that flying any banners other than the US Flag and the POW MIA flag is putting ‘politics’ on the pole, why would you then ask to fly a banner which would violate the principle it espouses?” Mr. Carroll wrote.

Barrington Town Council member Rob Humm has already stated publicly that he will not sponsor any flag requests. In a recent interview, Mr. Humm said “One of the things that’s most important to me is overall sense of community. The longer we talk about flags, we’re not going to get that community that everyone wants.”

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