A lawsuit has been filed by a team of legal experts against the city of New Rochelle, N.Y., for its confiscation of the historical American Gadsden Flag, which was considered the first flag of the Continental Navy.
According to a statement from the Thomas More Law Center, the action challenges the city’s decision to take away the flag from the United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association of New Rochelle, and its president, Peter Parente.
According to the law firm, the Gadsden flag is a historical American flag with a yellow field showing a coiled snake. Below the snake are the words, “Don’t Tread on Me.”
The law center said the flag was designed in 1775 and is named for Revolutionary war general and statesman Christopher Gadsden.
According to the law firm, “On March 21, 2013, at an official ceremony, the veterans unfurled a new American flag to replace a tattered one, damaged in Hurricane Sandy. Beneath the American flag the veterans raised the Gadsden flag.”
The organization explained that the New Rochelle Armory was an active New York State Naval Military Armory and training facility for the Navy and Marines up until the 1990s.
“Over 50 years ago, the city of New Rochelle chartered the veterans group to conduct patriotic services, which included ceremonies to honor its veterans, the care of city memorials and monuments, and the upkeep and maintenance of the armory flag and memorials,” the Thomas More center said.
But shortly later, City Manager Chuck Strome ordered Parente to remove the Gadsden flag because “it was a tea party symbol.”
Strome relented after Parente explained the historic significance of the flag, but only a few hours later, Parente was told the city council had ordered the flag to be removed.
“It was later discovered that the council’s meeting violated New York’s open meeting laws and neither the public nor the two Republican council members were notified,” the law firm said.
But the flag was confiscated by the city public works division.
“The purpose of the lawsuit is obtain a court ruling that declares the New Rochelle City Council’s actions violated UVMPA-NR’s constitutional and statutory rights. Additionally, it seeks to return the flag to the veterans and allow them to fly the Gadsden Flag over the armory,” the legal center said.
Defendants include Mayor Noam Bramson and city council members Barry R. Fertel, Ivar Hyden, Shari B. Rackman, Jared R. Rice, and Charles B. Strome.
At the website for Talk of the Sound radio, Robert Cox explained the episode sprang from “a cynical political maneuver by Mayor Noam Bramson to win support among Democratic leaders throughout Westchester County in the weeks leading up to the Democratic Convention at which Bramson was nominated to run for county executive.”