Old Glory can again fly proudly at the Oaks Apartments in Albany, Oregon. The apartments’ management has backed off a policy that sought to keep residents from showing their colors on the grounds of the complex after news reports generated a national controversy.
Late last week reports surfaced of the edict from property manager Barb Holcomb banning residents from displaying flags or flag decals from their apartments or vehicles. Ms. Holcomb explained that she was “trying to avoid any conflict.”
“I have a problem when tenants’ rights to free speech come into contact with other tenants’ rights of peaceful enjoyment. This policy is not a violation of anyone’s civil rights,” she said. “We’re a diverse community here, and we’ve had previous problems with this sort of thing.”
Ms. Holcomb did not explain what problems had arisen in the past, or exactly how she was balancing the “right of peaceful enjoyment” against the First Amendment. But her attempt to “avoid any conflict” instead drew critical comments from across the country. Jeff Reynolds, chairman of the Multnomah County branch of Americans for Prosperity, was skeptical of the idea that banning the flag was a means of promoting diversity, since “the American Flag is the greatest symbol of diversity the world has ever known.”
Mr. Reynolds posted a story about the flag banning to his Facebook page which was met with an immediate response. “It was huge,” he said, “in just a few hours I got dozens of messages asking what we could do to help challenge this.” He told the Washington Times that he and others had planned to go to the Oaks Apartments at midnight on Thursday and surround the buildings with miniature American flags. He joking referred to the patriotic protest as “Operation Kiss My Flag.” The group also planned to put up yellow ribbons as a gesture of support for residents with relatives in the military, including Jim Clausen whose son is deploying to Iraq. Clausen was threatened with eviction for flying an American flag from the back of his motorcycle.
But the operation was scrubbed when the policy was rescinded. Apartment owner and Navy veteran Stan Keller said that the policy had been mistakenly applied. Mr. Reynolds was pleased with the outcome, saying that the policy was “ignorant” and that “hopefully some good can come from this episode in terms of reminding everyone of that fact.”