Political connotations led to removal of Gadsden Flag in village

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HAMILTON — Hamilton Mayor RuthAnn Loveless shed light on the decision to remove the Gadsden Flag from the village green and the village’s stance on flags in the future — following a planned rally Wednesday by the Mohawk Valley Main Street Patriots and RightWay USA to protest the flag’s removal.

Organizers said in a media release prior to the scheduled rally that the removed flag “was used by our Continental Army as our flag representing freedom and Liberty for all before Betsy Ross produced our first stars and strips flag. We can no longer sit back and allow the cancel culture to try and erase our American history, what’s next our beloved American flag?” In its announcement, organizers asked people to “Bring your American flag and your God given FREEDOM” and go to the village to join the rally, including a map of the planned event location.

According to Loveless, several flags were hung in the Hamilton village green for Memorial Day, including the Gadsden Flag. The flag is named after its designer Christopher Gadsden, who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution. It depicts a coiled timber rattlesnake with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” positioned below the snake.

“I received comments from residents and Board members expressing their surprise at seeing a Gadsden flag on village property,” Loveless said. “The flag has strong historical ties with patriot activities in the Revolutionary war era and had been installed in the village in prior years without comment.”

“Unfortunately,” she continued. “It has recently become associated with contemporary political messages, and to many, it currently conveys a negative social message.”

The flag has been flown by numerous political parties, including the Libertarian Party in the 1970s and the Tea Party in the early 2000s. Recently, the Gadsden flag was featured prominently by multiple individuals in the Jan. 6 storming of the United States Capitol. It has also been adopted as a symbol by numerous private militia’s as well as political groups, many of which are claimed to support alt-right movements.

According to the Mohawk Valley Main Street Patriots announcement, part of the purpose of the planned rally was to circulate a petition to “return the Gadsden Flag to the display of flags traditionally placed in the Village Green by the Hamilton American Legion Post 375.”

At the same time Loveless heard concerns about the Gadsden flag, she received a request from a local organization to post a gay pride flag on the village green.

“Considering that this flag also carries a political connotation, I consulted individually with other village Board members, who all concurred with my conclusions that the best course for the village would be to avoid the posting of any political or special interest flags on village property,” Loveless said.

She added that private property owners are free to exercise their First Amendment rights on their own properties.

“While I recognize that there are individuals on both sides of the political aisle that are unhappy with these decisions, I, and the village Board, believe this is the best policy decision for the times in which we are living,” Loveless concluded.

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