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How should Southold Town handle Confederate flags?

08/22/2017 2:55 PM |

One community member expressed concern at Monday’s meeting of the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force about a Confederate flag he saw as he drove past Town Beach Saturday.

Matthew Bloch of East Marion said he found the sight of the flag “shocking and appalling.” He wondered if the flag, attached to the back of a gray pickup truck, could legally be displayed at a public beach.

“I suspect I’m not the only one who’s seen that flag going up and down the road,” he said.

Mr. Bloch said he checked the section of the town code that governs recreational areas, which mentions that people are not permitted to make speeches or have parades without obtaining authorization.

“Clearly there is some notion in the code that all forms of speech are not protected on public space,” he said, noting that the code does not specifically mention flags.

Mr. Bloch said he would bring the issue to the Town Board at an upcoming meeting, wondering if they would make a statement that they do not endorse flying the Confederate flag in public spaces.

Task force co-chair Sonia Spar said the flag has been spotted this summer by community members, some of whom have posted about it on social media. She expressed concern about the flag’s appearance to the Town Board at a work session earlier this month.

The flag is “troubling,” she said, but “we cannot block speech.”

Ms. Spar said that kind of “big statement” needs to be responded to by educating the community and encouraging people to speak up against it.

Deputy town attorney Damon Hagan said Tuesday this issue would be “outside the scope of authority of the town attorney’s office under the current code.”

While the flag is often given historical significance and associated with pride in the South, Ms. Spar said, “unfortunately, with events that we saw in Charlottesville, we have seen that this flag had been taken by extremists to promote their extremist ideology.” Hatred and bigotry have been emboldened and on display, she said.

“We’re not in Tennessee or Alabama,” Mr. Bloch said. “This is the North Fork of Long Island. To me, the message is pretty unambiguous about what that stands for here.”

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Reader photo: This Confederate flag was spotted July 6 in Greenport Village.

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