Editorial: Flags and Warren

Posted 8/19/20

Though their motives were pure, the Warren Town Council faced a no-win situation when members voted to fly the Black Lives Matter flag in front of town hall throughout July and early August. Last …

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Editorial: Flags and Warren

Posted

Though their motives were pure, the Warren Town Council faced a no-win situation when members voted to fly the Black Lives Matter flag in front of town hall throughout July and early August. Last week, the council made the right move when members voted, unanimously, to allow only the flying of the US, POW/MIA, state and town flags outside of town hall from here on in.

The about-face, which came just weeks after councilors discussed the need for an overriding flag policy that would presumably specify how those with special interests could have their banners hung, came after a hard month of criticism, anger, and political posturing from many community members.

Even as council president and Black Lives Matter advocate Dyshell Palmer gave passionate speeches when they raised the BLM flag in front of town hall on July 10, and even after letter writers applauded the council for its bravery in supporting the cause of social justice, there were dissenting voices.

General Richard Valente, a long-time town volunteer, chastised the council for its hand in dishonoring Warren’s war dead, and for belittling the work of the Warren Police Department. Those with their own agendas also got in line. If the town can fly the BLM flag, one resident asked the council, I want the Gadsden flag to fly. And I want the Thin Blue Line flag hoisted, wrote another. 

By formally choosing to fly a flag, the town put itself in the business of selecting which causes, which messages, to endorse and project to the world. Rightly, in its vote last week the council closed the door on future speeches from impassioned residents asking for special-interest flags to wave above town hall. Had that door stayed open and the town adopted a more lenient flag policy, Warren would have faced many more special-interest requests. Requests for the Confederate flag, the Neo-Nazi flag, the Green Peace flag and the PETA flag would all make for great headlines in the local paper, but they would have been an enormous waste of the council’s time and energy and would cause even more division in town.

The council did a good job stepping out the flag business as quickly as it stepped into it.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.