Clayton’s revised flag policy to stay

The Pride flag is raised high above Frink Park during Clayton River Pride on the St. Lawrence River on June 26. The village recently banned the practice of raising non-national flags on village flagpoles, as pictured here. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

CLAYTON — The village’s new flag code will stay as it is, despite criticism from some local residents.

At Monday’s meeting of the village Board of Trustees, Deputy Mayor Nancy L. Hyde said the board stands by its decision to allow only national flags to fly from village flagpoles.

“We were asked to review the flag policy, and the board has listened, read a number of emails and letters, and the board still stands by their decision, that they will stay with the current flag policy,” she said.

In early August, trustees amended the policy, barring any banners that aren’t national flags from going up on village flagpoles around downtown Clayton.

The move came just weeks after Clayton held its first River Pride celebration, recognizing and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.

Some village residents, including River Pride organizer Alex Hazard, cried foul, saying the move would prevent Pride from happening in Frink Park again in 2022.

“I don’t think or believe your intention was, or ever would be, to exclude me or any member of this community,” Mr. Hazard said at the Aug. 23 board meeting. “Unfortunately, intentions aren’t the same as outcomes, and the outcome of not raising the flag is a message of exclusion.”

Mr. Hazard asked the village to reverse course, and return to voting on each request to raise a flag on village flagpoles as they had done before.

At Monday’s meeting, after the board affirmed it wouldn’t change its policies, Mr. Hazard said he was heartbroken by the decision.

“I am heartbroken, an understatement, by the decision that this board has made, to send a clear message, intentional or not, that some members of this community are not welcome,” he said.

Some board members have said allowing a Pride flag, or any other flag that represents a social group or movement, could put the village in a tough situation where they’d be asked to fly a more controversial flag.

“We know this is false,” Mr. Hazard said. “Local, state and federal government leaders all across the country have figured this out and flown the Pride flag as a symbol of equality over countless government buildings.”

He said he hopes the village board didn’t pass this policy with the intention of avoiding difficult decisions on which flags should be flown and which should not be.

Another Clayton resident, Campbell Marshall, said that’s exactly what this decision appears to be.

“I would suggest to this esteemed village board that elected officials are elected, not to legislate black and white policies that attempt to avoid making hard decisions, but rather that elected officials are elected to do precisely that, to make hard decisions,” he told the board Monday.

If the board avoids the question of flying flags, he said, deeper questions about the meaning of those flags and what Clayton represents will likely be asked further along. He asked the board to reconsider their decision.

When River Pride happens next year, the lack of a Pride flag flying overhead will be felt deeply, Mr. Hazard said. He said the timing of the policy change, which came just days after River Pride was held, makes clear what the policy change was truly about.

“I have heard you say that the village flag policy is not about discrimination, that it’s simply about a flag pole,” he said. “While I disagree strongly, I’ll accept you at your word.”

Mr. Hazard said River Pride will submit a request to host the event next year on village property again, and asked each board member to stand with the LGBTQ+ community when they do.

“I invite each of you to stand with us at River Pride next June, in 2022, to show those in attendance that Clayton truly is a place that welcomes all,” he said. “If this truly is just about a flag, I hope to see you there.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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(1) comment


Does Clayton support inclusion and equality or not? How difficult a decision is that?

Your decisions make Clayton.

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