The unfolding Armory/flag controversy promises a season of real drama, as the clumsy apparatus of New Rochelle city government tries to control the irrepressible local forces of patriotism and liberty.
The city manager's office (and at time of publication, now the office of Mayor Bramson) I believe to have acted precipitously and presumptuously in its rush to judgment (and at time of publication, in its hurried act of censorship); determining to remove a component of the flag display that was restored to a place of honor at the New Rochelle Armory by volunteers and supporters of the local patriotic group headed by Peter Parente, United Veterans of New Rochelle. As a general matter, I believe the city's chief administrative officer to have been mistaken in his actions by exceeding the essentially ministerial duties usually assigned to offices such as his in municipal and town jurisdictions from here to the West Coast.
As far as I can tell, there has been no formal transfer of the right of use of the historical Gadsden flag to any party or club; Tea, Republican, Democrat, Socialist Workers, Reform or other. If the manager's office claims to be in possession of proof positive that such a private organization or any other has acquired, assumed or accepted ownership, legal or otherwise, of the image of theoiled reptile in a field of yellow, a right of use temporary or in perpetuity to it, or any intellectual property right to the image in question whatsoever, I believe it is obligated to produce it.
Failing that, I believe this action to be one pure censorship, in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York. I believe also that this conduct would qualify as a violation of the oath of the relevant office and likely any handbook or employment manual issued to officials and employees of the City of New Rochelle, which was, after all, incorporated under the laws of the State of New York.
I do not believe that any public servant has been charged with the responsibility of public censor, or minister of protocol which, in some foreign jurisdiction perhaps, would entitle such officer to remove from public display symbols deemed to be "disruptive of the public order" or somehow offensive to the sensibilities of one political club, interest group or another, including any elected official or mayor; full time, ceremonial or other. In Stalinist Russia perhaps, or Fascist Italy. But not here.
The functions of a city manager's office are described generally as primarily ministerial. Meaning: it is supposed to transact the administrative and operational business of the city and its financial obligations according to narrow and strict rules and procedures with a minimum of individual prerogative involved (Definition; Ministerial: Of, relating to, or being a mandatory act or duty admitting of no personal discretion or judgment in its performance: from: Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003). The actions acknowledged by the New Rochelle city manager's office appear to belong to the class of official duties usually described as discretionary which are universally accepted to be rarely exercised, and if so, according to the highest and most stringent professional standards (that is why some public servants, like police officers are: sent to military-like service-academies; tested and screened to the greatest requirements of physical and mental fitness, and; required to account for and explain the firing of any firearms they may employ in the exercise of their "official duties" every day).
I have observed and attended rallies and official meetings of many and various organizations, groups and clubs, political and officially non-partisan also, including: the Republican, Democratic, Conservative and Libertarian parties, the New Rochelle Reform Club, B'nai Brith, the Anti-Defamation League, assemblages of Tea Party-devotees, an Occupy Wall Street outbreak or two, and even a long-past conclave of followers of noted American Communist theoretician Herbert Aptheker. There, I have personally observed all manner of nationalistic and patriotic imagery, including modern American flags, historical reproductions of colonial varieties and other representations of the hallowed stars and stripes in red, white and blue and rendered in a variety of configurations and shapes; and not just the traditional rectangular edition. I have never heard a complaint from any quarter that the presence of such an out-of-the-ordinary image was a prohibited exercise of constitutional freedoms by any individual or group in either a private or public setting.
I have also seen the complained-of image in a variety of settings across the political spectrum; from the fields of The Woodstock Festival of Music and Art in 1969 to rallies in support of the Second Amendment in the present day. In my considered opinion, no festival organizer, present-day gun rights activist or national or regional incarnation of a singular and unitary entity defined rather loosely and quite inaccurately by the mainstream media as "The Tea Party" has ever formally or legally assumed exclusive rights of use to the complained-of flag or any permutation of it. Not one.
How the administration concluded that the image belongs to any private party or entity is a profound mystery. Perhaps a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)-driven perusal of relevant officials' emails would betray the origin of this outbreak of mass-hysteria. If the vexatious conduct can be traced to the desperate partisan machinations of current New Rochelle mayor and aspirant for the post of Westchester County Executive, Noam Bramson, then indeed, his greatest, most lasting contribution to the Queen City of the Sound's once-proud record of historic significance may be revealed to be this sordid, unprecedented assault on the First Amendment to the Constitution.
(This commentary is offered by the above-signed: as a private citizen to be helpful to friends in the local veterans' and patriotic communities; and, as a proud citizen of the City of New Rochelle, the home of Thomas Paine, an early pamphleteer and defender of a libertarian American republican democracy. The author does not presume to act in the capacity of an attorney for the furtherance of the interests of any individual or organization or against the interests of any individual or organization).
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