In a lawsuit filed in federal court, a veterans group is alleging that officials in a New York city violated its free-speech rights when a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag was banned from a city-owned former armory.
The United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association of New Rochelle, N.Y., and its president, Peter Parente, are suing the city, Mayor Noam Bramson, the city manager and four City Council members. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court last week, says that the city’s action, in addition to being unconstitutional, was "unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious" and betrayed a lack of appreciation of history, according to Fox News.
The City Council had ordered the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag down in March, citing complaints that it was making a political statement. The flag has been used as an unofficial symbol of the tea party since at least 2008 and is often seen at party rallies, tax protests and gun rights rallies.
The lawsuit, however, offers a long history of the flag, which has been used by the U.S. military since 1776. It also says none of the veterans who raised the flag in March are tea party members.
“Contrary to defendants’ unfounded, subjective (and incorrect) belief, plaintiffs’ intended purpose in flying the Gadsden flag below the Stars and Stripes at the armory was and is not to make a statement in support of the Tea Party,” the lawsuit says, reports The Journal News.
“It’s a slap in the face, an insult to any veteran that they would try to identify that flag with anything other than what it should be — honoring the service of our people,” said Ron Tocci, a former assemblyman and a retired Veterans Affairs commissioner.
The lawsuit seeks a court order permitting the association to fly the Gadsden flag and “nominal and compensatory damages.”
City Councilman Jared Rice, who supported the flag’s removal, told The Journal News Friday it was no longer an issue.
“I am focused on the daily activities of the city,” Rice said.