The ongoing national debate over kneeling in protest has moved far beyond the NFL’s pregame national anthem to impact a small Connecticut community.
According to the Washington Examiner, Democratic town official Melissa Schlag opted to kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance prior to a recent Haddam board of selectmen meeting.
Following that demonstration on July 16, the same day as President Donald Trump’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, video of the sparsely attended meeting began to spread.
As the local controversy grew, hundreds of attendees packed the room for another meeting this week.
A WTIC report indicates her actions have caused a schism within Haddam and beyond about the already divisive issue.
Even as some in attendance booed and heckled, Schlag spoke out, defending her right to demonstrate and pushing back against those who question her patriotism.
“I don’t have to stop my free speech when I walk into a selectmen’s meeting,” she said. “I don’t hate my country. I love my country. We need to continue this conversation.”
She has received some support among area officials, including Middletown Board of Education member Lisa Loomis-Davern.
“The symbolic gesture of taking the knee is what shines a bright light on these issues,” she said.
Loomis-Davern has also publicly taken a knee as part of a larger demonstration against racial inequality.
Many within the small town, however, side with the president and others who feel the protests are disrespectful to American military service members.
“Are you thinking when you kneeled down to the sacred Pledge of Allegiance that what these people died for gives you the right to do that and disrespect that?” one attendee asked.
Another echoed the sentiment of some opposed to the NFL protests, telling Schlag that she should only be permitted to demonstrate on her “own time.”
Many of those who opposed her protest were themselves clad in the colors of the American flag.
Following the brouhaha, Schlag spoke with some of her constituents and remained defiant in her stance.
“It’s been worse in this town,” she told one citizen, according to the Examiner. “This town is fascist and racist.”
Though she has faced mounting calls for her to step down, Schlag has given no indication she is thinking about resigning.
“I appreciate everybody coming out because this is truly town government at its best,” she said at the conclusion of Monday’s meeting.
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