Residents of the Buffalo, N.Y., suburb of Hamburg were outraged after noticing a Pride flag had replaced the town hall’s long–flying POW/MIA banner that had honored service members who went missing in action or were killed.
Hamburg’s Coalition for Equity and Inclusion raised the Pride flag on Friday as part of the town’s observance of Pride month. However, town board member Beth Farrell quickly voiced her disapproval of the display on Facebook.
“I am alarmed and saddened to learn that the POW/MIA flag that flew with our American flag at Town Hall was removed yesterday to fly another flag,” Farrell wrote. “Creating unnecessary controversy involving our veterans and the Pride flag could and should have been avoided.”
Town Supervisor Randy Hoak was quick to point out that the POW/MIA flag had simply been removed after it had become frayed and tattered.
“Prior to the ceremony, it became apparent that the POW/MIA flag was frayed and tattered and in need of replacement,” he explained. “The damaged flag was removed and immediately delivered to the Town Clerk for proper disposal and swift replacement.”
Stressing the town‘s respect for the men and women who had served in the military, Hoak said, “We must never forget.”
Town Clerk Cathy Rybczynski added that the distressed flag had been observed by the town‘s grounds crew who contacted her to procure its timely disposal. A new flag had been ordered and should arrive soon.
Hoak later reported that he had received approximately a dozen calls at his office concerning the replacement, including one veteran who suggested the removal of the Pride flag from the same pole as the American and POW flags.
An agitated veteran allegedly slapped Hoak, leading to an arrest on charges of harassment.
Despite the mishap, Hamburg‘s Coalition for Equity and Inclusion declared, “Happy Pride, Hamburg!” on social media along with a photo of the three flags flying at the town hall.
By Monday, the new POW/MIA flag had been posted to the same pole as the American and the Pride flags, in order to observe both patriotism and inclusivity.