The Palouse City Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance allowing certain flags to be flown on city lampposts during holidays in response to a recent controversy.
The ordinance allows the display of the American flag, Washington’s state flag, the National League of Families Prisoners of War-Missing in Action Flag, the Palouse city flag and any other flag or banner that the city council may choose to be flown.
The flags may be flown during 11 dates, most of which are military-related holidays, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
Individuals are still allowed to carry flags or banners in public and display them on private property.
For the past month, city officials have held discussions about implementing a flag policy after the city received complaints from residents concerned about the Palouse Lions Club flying the “Thin Blue Line” flag during holidays.
The Lions Club began flying the flag five years ago as a way to show support to first responders.
According to Palouse City Council minutes, residents asked for the flag to be removed because in recent years it has been adopted by groups like Blue Lives Matter, a national countermovement to Black Lives Matter.
Last week, Mayor Chris Cook wrote a letter to the community addressing tensions and rumors raised after the Lions Club chose not to hang any flags during the Fourth of July weekend. Damon Estes, president of the Palouse Lions Club, told the Daily News last week the club wanted to wait until the city passed a flag ordinance before it hung flags again.
During a public forum during Tuesday’s meeting, several people commented on the flag issue.
Nancy Whitesell said she is concerned the prominence of Black Lives Matters signs in the community may give the wrong impression that racism is a problem in Palouse.
“That concerns me because to me that says that we have that issue here in town and that it’s a very prominent thing here in town which might dissuade people from wanting to be here, and that’s not what we want,” she said.
Mike Burkhart, a member of the Palouse Lions Club, said the city and Lions Club have never been racist and being labeled as such is offensive to the club that aims to serve the community.
“If you are going to keep putting us down, what is the point for us to go do this for our community any longer?” he said.
He said the club chose to fly the Thin Blue Line flag to show appreciation for first responders that protect the community.
Jessie Twigg Harris praised the city for the ordinance and said she would like Palouse to develop an anti-racism statement and post it on the city’s website.
In other business, the public also weighed in on the city’s decision to close the city pool because of COVID-19 risks. Several people asked the council to reconsider this decision and find a safe way to open the pool, particularly so the youth can swim in it.
The city council will discuss this issue again at the next council meeting.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.