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Galesburg city council approves flag ordinance

Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio

Only government, POW/MIA and military flags can now fly at Galesburg city hall and other city property, following a 6-1 vote by the city council to adopt a flag ordinance.

The vote came after Ward Four Council Member Dwight White asked to table the ordinance, saying his request to fly a Black Lives Matter or Black American Heritage Flag was ignored by city administration.

“Give us the honor of being respected as a people,” White said.

The council denied the motion to table on a 5-2 vote with White and Ward Six Council Member Sarah Davis in favor.

White said he is actually in favor of the flag ordinance, and voted for it.

Only Davis – who is the only openly queer member of the city council – voted against the flag ordinance, saying the need for it was “purely retaliatory” for the city flying pride flags.

Pride flags have flown on city property since 2020. The city’s first Pride Month proclamation came in 2020 under former mayor John Pritchard – and continued each year after.

In June of this year, a majority of council members initially did not want pride flags to fly, saying the city needed a flag ordinance first.

Davis said the measures that prohibit pride flags aren’t expressly discriminatory, but that discrimination is sneaky.

“It sounds like we’re trying to pursue equality but the effect is the same as discrimination,” Davis said. “The effect is we have a very clear paper trail to what led us to this point.”

Last month, a majority of council members voted to fly a pro-life flag at city hall, before the flag policy was in place. Those voting in favor were Bradley Hix, Wayne Dennis, Evan Miller, Heather Acerra, and Steve Cheesman.

In a letter to council members last week, the city’s Community Relations Commission expressed concern over that decision, saying it was a double standard.

“In June of this year, the city council declined to fly the pride flag, citing a lack of a ‘flag ordinance’ as the reason for this decision. This decision was only overturned after many phone calls and hours of outraged citizens speaking at the council meeting. While we respect the need for established regulations, it is difficult not to notice the stark contrast in how the pro-life flag was handled in comparison. This inconsistency raises questions about the council's commitment to equal representation of all perspectives within our community,” the letter reads.

The CRC urged the council to remain neutral in matters of religion and individual beliefs to ensure all members of the community feel respected.

“This could be illustrated by allowing culturally recognized flags to fly during federally observed celebratory months,” the letter reads.

Others asked the same of the council during public comments at Monday’s meeting, prior to the vote on the flag ordinance.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.