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It is said that people who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, according to Ben Barrett, the commander of the American Legion Lloyd V. Evans Post 375 in Hamilton.

The Flag of Gadsden, provided by the Legion, features a rattlesnake and the words “Do not step on me” on a yellow background. He’s been flying along Village Green in Hamilton for years. But this year, after he was lifted again in May, he was quickly pulled. Barrett said he was told there had been a complaint that someone had been “offended by the flag”.

Although its origins date back to the 1700s, the flag has become a symbol among various far-right groups. Recently it was flown by protesters during the January Capitol Riot in Washington, DC

But the flag itself, Barrett said, does not have a negative connotation per se.

“The flag is history and is only political in the minds of some people,” Barrett explained.

The flag is named after politician Christopher Gadsden, who designed it in 1775 during the War of Independence. The Continental Marines carried it as an early motto flag. Hamilton Village Mayor RuthAnn Loveless said he had been flying around the village for years without any negative reactions – until now.

“Shortly after the installation of the flags for Memorial Day, I received comments from residents and board members expressing surprise to see a Gadsden ‘Do not tread on me’ flag on the property. from the village, ”Loveless said. “The flag has close historical links to the activities of the Patriots during the Revolutionary War era and had been installed in the village in previous years without comment. Unfortunately, it has recently been associated with some contemporary political messages and to many people it currently conveys a negative social message. a message.”

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Loveless said that while she had heard concerns over Gadsden’s flag, she had also received a request from a local organization to display a rainbow gay pride flag on village property. Because this flag can also be seen as carrying a political connotation, she consulted individually with the other members of the village board, who all agreed that the best solution for the village would be to avoid the display of political or special interest flags on village property.

This leaves all private landowners free to exercise their First Amendment rights to fly their flags on their own properties, she said.

“Although I recognize that there are individuals on both sides of the political aisle who are not happy with these decisions, I and the village council believe this is the best political decision for the time in which we live in, ”Loveless said.

Barrett and Station Warrant Officer John Rathbone met with Loveless and Acting Village Administrator and lawyer Jim Stokes on June 29 to discuss the flag’s removal and the possibility of its return.

The legionaries were told that the flag would stay down. Barrett said in response that when their other village flags are removed at the end of the season, those flags will be removed and properly burned in accordance with the flag tagging procedure.

Future flags will also not be added as originally planned, Barrett added.

The Don't Tread On Me flag, seen here flying under an American flag, shows a coiled rattlesnake on the grass against a yellow background, with the words

In new business at the regular monthly village council meeting on May 18, a letter from Rathbone was presented regarding the worn flags placed throughout the village each summer and the cost of replacing them. The board of directors voted unanimously to contribute $ 500 from the July 4th village fund towards the cost of replacing some of the flags.

This check was returned by Barrett and Rathbone at the June 29 meeting.

Barrett said they had been asked to return to discuss the matter with the full board, but since the next board meeting would be their longer reorganization meeting, he and Rathbone declined l ‘invitation. They could attend the next meeting, but the situation would not be resolved in time for the village’s July 4th festivities – when the legionaries really wanted their flags to be seen.

The flag is historic to this nation and any more recent image it represents is not the issue, Barrett said. The problem comes from people who see something in the flag that was never intended.

People listen to President Donald Trump's speech at a rally on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 in Washington.

“It’s strange to me that the majority of people have no problem with this while the minority see it as something it was never meant to be,” he said.

Barrett, a Vietnam War veteran, said removing the flag was particularly painful to him in ways civilians would likely not understand.

“There is a saying that goes ‘freedom has a flavor that the proteges will never know’,” he explained. “We have served our country and these flags have special meaning for us. The mere fact that an organization uses a flag does not diminish what the flag represents.”

“I commend them for taking the time to speak with us,” Loveless said. “They are passionate about the historical significance of the flag, which I understand. However, in the current political climate, the flag has taken on additional meanings that we cannot ignore.”

Mike Jaquays is the editor of Mid-York Weekly. For unlimited access to his stories, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Email Mike Jaquays at [email protected].