Skip to comments.Removal of flag in Amherst draws comments
Posted on 11/17/2004 3:50:28 PM PST by gringo_in_Akita
AMHERST - The Puerto Rican flag is flying in front of Town Hall again, two days after a woman mistook it for the flag of Texas and removed it from the flagpole.
Patricia Church, of South Prospect Street, was attending a peace vigil on the town common Sunday when she noticed a new flag flying under the usual United Nations flag. Someone at the vigil said it was the flag of Texas, she said.
Church, still upset over the re-election of President Bush last week, said she thought someone had raised the Texas flag as a prank to taunt supporters of Sen. John Kerry. She called the police. But before officers arrived on the scene, Church, a Town Meeting member who chairs Amherst's Solid Waste Committee, undid the ropes and took the flag down, and later brought it to her house.
She was unaware that the flag was raised there last week, before 100 people, as part of the Amherst Puerto Rican Association's eighth annual cultural celebration.
The flags of Texas and Puerto Rico are similar. Both have white five-pointed stars on blue backgrounds on the left, and white and red horizontal stripes on the right. But the blue part is a triangle on the Puerto Rican flag and a rectangle on the Texas flag, and while the Puerto Rican flag has five alternating red and white stripes, the Texas flag has only two.
''I'm mortified,'' said Church when she learned of her mistake Monday. ''This makes me really embarrassed.''
She immediately asked a friend to fetch the flag from her house and take it to the police station, she said. Town Manager Barry Del Castilho said it would be returned to the flagpole today, she said. Police said today they would not pursue charges.
But the matter didn't end there. Vladimir Morales, the School Committee member who is president of the Puerto Rican Association, says he has demanded a formal apology from Church. The two were active in the campaigns of rival candidates in the Democratic primary for governor's council, said Church, who had not yet responded to Morales' request Monday night.
Removing the flag would not have been justified even if it had been the Texas flag, Morales said. ''You have to respect any flag, no matter where it's from,'' he said. ''Flags are flags. They're symbols.''
And he expressed surprise that a participant in a peace vigil had taken matters into her own hands by removing the flag. ''They're there for peace, for heaven's sake,'' he said.
''The elections are over,'' Morales said. ''Bush won. They have to let it go and get on with their lives.''
Staff writers Tom Marshall and Scott Merzbach contributed to this report.
And WE'RE the stupid ones!!
The words "steal", "stolen", and "theft" are all conspicuously absent from this article.
Every time I read something about Amherst it's commie and cuckoo.
Sorry, folks. Don't know how to display that flag as a picture. Computer moron, here.
this happened in Amherst? What a surprise, I'm stunned!!!
Oh and also the words "I'm sorry".
Moron Massachusetts LiberalNazis on the march. If this foul smelling, hairy armpit b*tch had any brains, she'd be dangerous.
Except, of course, the American flag, which is to be burnt at every leftist demo.
Yeah, don't even get me started on "the usual United Nations flag". Gag...
Amherst flag dispute September 10th 2001
September 11, 2001: Flags, Amherst and Jennie Traschen
"The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have transformed Jennie Traschen, a University of Massachusetts physics professor, into a target of harassment and hate.
Critics have publicized her home and e-maiI addresses on the Internet, leading to a flood of nasty calls and computer messages. On her answering machine, strangers have made crude sexual remarks and denounced her as a traitor.
'This nation has been spit on by the likes of this trash,' said an anonymous visitor to an Internet chat site. Another wrote: 'These Marxist traitors should be hanged with piano wire and left to rot in the sun.'
Unlike the backlash against Muslims and Arab-Americans, however, the attacks on Ms. Traschen have nothing to do with her ethnicity or religion. They were sparked by what the diminutive 45-year-old said about the American flag the night before four hijacked planes killed thousands and unleashed a maelstrom of emotion involving patriotism, security and fear.
People in this college town are used to speaking their minds. On the evening of Sept. 10, several dozen of them turned out to do just that at a meeting of the five-member select board that governs Amherst. The meeting had been called to settle a dispute over how often to fly 29 American flags that a group of veterans and volunteers had hung from lamp posts along the town's main thoroughfares.
Roderick Raubeson, a 59-year-old former Marine who heads the town's Veterans' Services office and the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, had long been troubled that Amherst, known for its liberal political bent, had never adequately honored its military veterans. And so, in early August, he used $1,000 from the Veterans' Services budget for commemorative activities to buy the flags that he and others then raised downtown.
The flags raised a stir in this town of 36,000 people. Some residents wrote letters to local officials opposing the display altogether. Others said that flying so many flags every day made them just part of the scenery and eroded their meaning. But many local veterans lobbied for the flags to be flown for months at a time.
With several flags already flying daily at government offices, many town officials thought that any additional display should be confined to commemorative holidays, such as Flag Day and the Fourth of July. The issue grew more heated after Labor Day, when the flags were taken down pending a public debate and a decision by the select board at its Sept. 10 meeting.
Ms. Traschen didn't think twice about going to the town hall to make her opinions known. As a little girl, she had attended antiwar protests with her late father, a World War II veteran who often told her that free speech was among the rights the flag stood for. As an adult, she has frequently spoken out against U.S. policies ranging from the deportation of Central American refugees to Washington's support for the now-fallen apartheid regime in South Africa.
At the meeting, which was taped by a public-access cable-TV channel, Ms. Traschen urged people to lobby for more spending on education and health care for veterans rather than on hanging out more flags. Nervously tapping her open hand on the table in front of her, she also said that the flag had not always represented policies to be proud of. But it was one blunt comment that would be reported by local media and repeated again and again on the Internet.
'What the flag is,' she said on the eve of disaster, 'is a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and oppression.
In hindsight, Ms. Traschen wishes she had explained her thoughts differently. But then, in a town nestled in a peaceful valley in western Massachusetts, she had never had to choose her words with painstaking care. 'There's been a level of repercussion that was totally unanticipated,' she says.
Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, the country awoke to the horror unfolding in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The calls to Ms. Traschen's home began Wednesday morning. In the first, it took 20 minutes to calm down an irate man from Seattle, who then warned her that her home address and phone number were already circulating on the Web. Another caller asked to speak to the 'terrorist sympathizer.' One suggested that she move to Afghanistan.
For a time, Ms. Traschen and her husband, also a physics professor, tried to discuss the issue with callers. When the attacks grew more vicious, however, they contacted local police, who mounted additional patrols past their home and put an electronic 'tag' on their telephone so that operators would know that any call from the residence should immediately be treated as an emergency.
For a time, additional police officers were also stationed outside town hall, where officials fielded dozens of angry calls and e-mails from around the nation. Some senders had heard rumors that Amherst had ordered the flags taken down after the terrorist attacks; others were convtinced that the town had banned private citizens from flying the flag at home. 'We had all kinds of messages,' says Town Manager Barry Del Castelho. 'It was mostly people telling us to leave town or leave the country.'
What had happened at the Sept. 10 meeting was that the town's select board voted 4-1 to fly the 29 flags only on six specified holidays. In the wake of the terrorist attacks the following morning, however, a group of men in a pickup truck went to the town offices on their own, retrieved the flags and returned them to their downtown sites. Since then, a local pub owner has vowed to raise money to buy even more flags for the main thoroughfares.
Mr. Raubeson, the man who started the flag displays, condemns the threats that Ms. Traschen has received. He also defends her right to free expression - with one caveat: 'When you speak your mind like that, there are consequences.'
In light of the terrorist attacks, the select board hasn't determined if it will remove the 29 flags. If there is another public debate, Ms. Traschen doesn't know if she will be there.
Not that the events of Sept. 11 have altered her opinions. 'To many, many ordinary people in countries around the globe, the U.S. has done terrifying things,' she says. 'If I think about the flag, I have to think about it from the point of view of those people.'
But in Amherst, as in other towns and cities, some things have most assuredly changed since the terrorist attacks. Ms. Traschen no longer tries to discuss the flag with anonymous callers. And unsettled by the sound of her own ringing phone, she frequently leaves home to study or write.
Though fearful about future turmoil for the three-year-old child that she and her husband are in the final stages of adopting, she did write a letter to the local newspaper explaining her views. After receiving what she called 'a spate of e-mails that were especially violent and several were obscene,' she wanted to vent a little and talk to the locals.
'It was a good thing to do,' Ms. Traschen says, noting that at the farmers' market, a lot of people came up to her and said they understood. But she remains upset by the episode and its implications.
'People are going to have a much harder time speaking their minds in this community,' she says." (Jerry Guidera and Robert Tomsho, The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2001).
Not too smart there, are you, Patricia....
Amherst should secede from the Union.
This reminds me of the double-standards that exist in the Amherst area. I'm from nearby Northampton, almost as bad as Amherst. On election day in 2000, I took a train home from college in NYC to vote in person, as it was the first election for which I was of voting age. Some buddies and I were standing at the busiest intersection in town with our Bush/Cheney signs. A group of lesbians came up to us and physically assaulted us (or at least our signs), ripping the sign right out of one of my buddys' hands and punching my sign. Some nearby cops looked the other way- I KNOW they saw it, they probably just didn't want to deal with the town's openly lesbian mayor who doesn't like the police department, according to a friend on the force.
If I had tried to take somebody's Nader or Gore sign that day, I'd be locked up! Likewise, if it had been one of us in Amherst and we stole their precious UN flag instead of the P.R. flag, you know darn well what would happen. And the Gazette's article would have some very different wording, I'm sure.
It would be easier to confuse Puerto Rico's flag with Ohio's.
This makes my day! I went to college in the Happy Valley some time ago and it has not ceased in entertainment value!
Maybe when it comes to flags, but as her job title suggests - she really knows her "Sh&T"