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Decorah City Council rejects application to fly historic American flags

Posted: Tue, Sep 3, 2019 7:32 PM

The Decorah City Council deadlocked 3-3 Tuesday night on a motion to allow historical American flags to be flown on Water Street on September 17th, in observance of Constitution Day.

The vote followed a long discussion of the old flag designs, especially the so-called "Gadsden Flag."  City council member Emily Neal said, "The Gadsden flag...has been used as a symbol of white supremacy."  She added, "I don't think it would be appropriate to fly the flag."

Winneshiek County Republican Party Chair Thomas Hansen, who had made the application for permission to fly the flags, told Neal, "quit taking things out of context."  He said the flags were symbols of an important part of American history--the Constitution.

Decorah High School student Jacob Voight told city council members he wanted to see a bipartisan observance of Constitution Day.  He said he's been working to get schools in Decorah to observe the day.  A member of the local Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) said her organization works with schools throughout NE Iowa, providing copies of the Constitution.

But city council member Johanna Bergan said the type of flags that are flown represent "a message from the city."  She said the most appropriate way to observe Constitution Day would be to fly the current American flag.

When the matter came to a vote, Neal, Bergan and Steve Luse voted against the motion, while Andy Carlson, Randy Schissel and Ross Hadley voted in favor of it.  That meant the motion failed, so no flags will be flown September 17th.

(For more about the shifting symbolism of the Gadsden flag, visit: