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City of Minot adopts flag policy

Groups just want attention to their goals

Jill Schramm/MDN U.S. and North Dakota flags fly at half mast Monday in front of Minot City Hall.

Flags raised on Minot city property going forward will be limited to the United States, North Dakota and City of Minot.

The policy decision of the Minot City Council Monday leaves local organizations and others interested in public flag displays to find other community space.

“We are definitely disappointed in the decision last night, not just for us but also for other organizations,” James Falcon, co-executive director for Magic City Equality, said Tuesday. “It’s definitely a missed opportunity for the city and organizations to work together to show solidarity with their respective observances.”

Doug Benjamin, commander of the local DAV chapter, voiced disappointment that the POW/MIA flag, which has been flown outside City Hall, falls outside the new policy. The POW/MIA flag helps raise awareness, he said.

“We don’t want to forget about those people who are missing. We need to keep in the minds of the American people that we need to find – if just the remains of – these men and women and repatriate them to our country for burial,” he said.

Benjamin said the POW/MIA flag is widely flown, putting Minot at odds with what is done elsewhere.

“But I understand how they want to get away from flying everybody’s flag. They need probably to do that,” he said. “I understand the reasoning for that.”

The council’s flag policy doesn’t matter, said Ernest Usher, with Black Lives Matter and an organizer of Minot’s annual Juneteenth celebration that has flown its flag in front of City Hall. What matters are the actions of the community that show support, he said.

“If that stops, I would be upset,” he said. “If that keeps going on, you can fly the flag or not fly the flag. The representation of us is not the flag. The representation of us is the work that we do.”

Council members considered options for flag raising that included potential for allowing both ceremonial and organizational flags if individually approved by the council. The council also could have created a “freedom of speech space” and allowed monuments and flags in that separate space.

Council member Tom Ross moved to adopt a policy that limits flag raising on city property to the three government flags. The council voted 6-0 to approve the policy. Council member Carrie Evans was absent.

Council member Stephan Podrygula said he is leery of the government making decisions on whose flag flies on its property.

“I’m not sure that the city – any city – should be in the business of promulgating views or even giving people a space to talk. That’s already there. If people want to gather on the steps of City Hall, they can do that,” he said. “I just don’t know that, again, it’s our job to facilitate speech.”

“I personally have not had any issues with any of the flags that we have flown,” council member Lisa Olson said. “But my fear is that we’re going to go down a slippery slope, and it’s going to be difficult to determine, as a council, what flags should be flown. I think there’s going to be divisions when we start having any discussions, and I don’t want to create that situation. I wholeheartedly support the idea of a community flag pole, and I hope that there is a way that someone takes the charge on this and these flags can be flown.”

Ross also suggested the community come together on a space.

“We have so many different entities out there, and so many entities that want to fly a flag,” Ross said. “It’s an opportunity for you to sit down, come together, find a space where the community can come together and celebrate each and every organization.”

Organizations are hesitant about a community space or flag pole, though.

Usher said the community already provides space, such as allowing events in city parks.

Falcon said creating a space for all voices presents opportunity for messages that aren’t positive. Rather than supporting a community flag pole, Falcon agreed with comments by Podrygula that there’s better ways to achieve goals than flying flags, such as an Equal Rights ordinance. Minot City Equality’s goal is to raise Minot’s score on LGBTQ2S+ equality, which ranks well behind North Dakota’s three larger cities, he said.

“If we can’t put a flag up to represent that equality, we would like to work with the city to help raise that score, because we feel it would help make Minot a better place to live,” Falcon said.

On a Facebook post Tuesday, Magic City Equality challenged the council to provide support through amendments that will add gender identity and sexual orientation everywhere anti-discrimination and protected classes are touched on in the city’s municipal code.

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