Flag policy in Watertown sparks debate

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 4:32 PM CDT
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The Watertown City Council has updated their flag policy after a long night of debate.

That debate was sparked by Brett Ries, an LGBTQ activist in Watertown. Ries was pushing for city hall to fly the pride flag over city hall on Friday, June 12th, the anniversary of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.

"Part of my goal this summer was to just kind of increase awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Watertown. I firmly believe that the majority of Watertown is supportive of the community, but I realize that not a lot of people know how to show that support." Ries said.

Ries says that although the plan was well received by Mayor Sarah Caron, the mayor acknowledged that such an action would have to be approved by the city council.

That was the case Monday night, where the city council voted 8-2 to limit Watertown's flag policy to the US flag, the state flag, the city of Watertown, and the POW/MIA flag.

The motion was brought forth by Councilman Don Roby.

"It's not anti-anything, it's about good governance, it's about not putting future councils in a position where the flag pole starts getting politicized," Roby argued.

Ries believes that provisions within the policy would not have required any council to make a difficult decision moving forward.

"The policy was designed to allow the pride flag to be flown, but it would have prevented many other certain flags from flying," Ries said.

Despite disagreement on the merit of the policy, Ries says that he understands the council members who oppose his position.

"He (Roby) and other council members expressed that they support our group, they talked about forming a commission to address these kinds of concerns."

Ries and other supporters in the area still intend to have a candlelight vigil walk this Friday to honor the victims of the Orlando Pulse shooting.