The city of New Rochelle, N.Y., has removed the historic Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flag from a military armory, deeming the flag “too partisan” because it often is used by the tea party movement.
And in response, veterans groups have tapped the Thomas More Law Center to take up the fight.
It was after an official ceremony on March 21 at the New Rochelle Armory that a new American flag was unfurled to replace the previous weathered flag that flew at the location. Beneath the new American flag, the yellow Gadsden Flag was flown, as is common tradition on many military sites.
However, within a week of the ceremony, City Manager Chuck Strome ordered the Gadsden flag be taken down because of “unidentified complaints” that the flag was a symbol of the tea party movement.
Peter Parente, president of the United Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Association of New Rochelle, sent Strome links to the history of the flag so he decided to allow it to remain.
But the city council then stepped in, voting 5-2 to order the flag to be removed.
The five members who voted to uphold its removal were Democrats, while the two voting to reinstate the flag were Republicans.
That same day, the public works department removed the flag.
Now the flag fight is headed to court.
“Their outrageous decision to confiscate a cherished symbol of our War for Independence smacks of pure partisan politics,” Richard Thompson, chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, stated.
“Many Americans fought and died for our independence under that flag, and the law center will take available means to return the Gadsden flag back on the veterans’ flag pole. As one Revolutionary War hero said, we ‘have just begun to fight,’” he added.
Parente and members of his organization organized a “Citizens To Be Heard” protest of the flag’s removal to take place at the April 9 city council meeting.
During the earlier meeting of the whole committee, city council member Shari Rackman compared the Gadsden flag to the rainbow flag, used to symbolize “gay” pride.
Rackman also alleged that veterans “refused” to remove the flag.
However, that account proved to be inaccurate.
The United Veterans sent a color guard to the armory to receive, fold and secure the flag. Moments later, DPW workers came to confiscate the flag and it was handed over. It was then taken to city hall, where it remains.
Over a half a century ago, New Rochelle chartered the veterans society, known as the UVMPA, to formally conduct veterans services, which include caring for memorials and monuments and upkeep and maintenance of armory flags throughout the city.
In the past, the city council has never sought to intervene in any aspect of the how the UVMPA fulfills its responsibilities. The Thomas More Law Center is confident it will be victorious in representing the interests of the veterans group.
The yellow Gadsden flag featuring a coiled snake and the phrase, “Don’t Tread On Me” is steeped in U.S. history dating back to its founding. It has been used by Marines and the Navy since 1775 and is often flown at Marine Corp bases and on Navy warships.
The New Rochelle armory was at one time a New York State Naval Militia Armory and training facility for both Navy and Marines.