In response to the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ float which displayed Confederate flags in our 4th of July parade, we held a special city council meeting last Tuesday night.
About 40-50 people came and 23 spoke out publicly about it. The vast majority were upset that this float came to town and passionately objected to the flag’s presence here, as it has become a symbol of racism and oppression. They understood the importance of the First Amendment but several citizens wondered if there were another way to limit this symbol of hate in our town.
A few defended the flag and the float, asserting that the group represents Southern heritage and that the First Amendment protects their free speech. In fact, Erik Ernst, who organized the float, spoke about his SCV organization and explained that his group does not promote racism but aims to honor their veteran ancestors. He was gentle and was brave to show up. But he does not seem to understand the effect that offensive flag has on people, especially people of color, and how it now symbolizes an anti-civil rights movement.
A few people of color or their spouses spoke out and it was moving to hear about their experiences of prejudice. In the end, we passed Resolution 1246, a resolution expressing opposition to messages of hate. We believe that we cannot deny people’s First Amendment right to display their message in a city-run parade, as we are legally bound to do so, but we can at least express our opposition to messages of hate and intolerance.
Many people spoke about how much they love our small town and want to promote a culture of inclusivity. I agree. Let’s not let the conversation end with the resolution we passed last night but rather make it an important first step in openly addressing the issue of inclusion and how we can better make people feel safe and welcome in our wonderful little community. I believe we can both value people and the institution of freedom of speech.
RESOLUTION NO. 1246
A RESOLUTION EXPRESSING OPPOSITION TO MESSAGES OF HATE
WHEREAS, the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Oregon guarantee the right of the People to engage in First Amendment protected activities; and
WHEREAS, in accordance with the City of Canby Charter, each Official of the City of Canby takes an oath affirming support of the Constitutions and Laws of the United States, the State Of Oregon, and the City of Canby; and
WHEREAS, the City Council seeks to foster a culture of mutual understanding and appreciation for the inherent value of all within our community regardless of race, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic; and
WHEREAS, The City Council of the City of Canby wishes to exercise their City’s right to speak out in support of a culture of respect for all people; and
WHEREAS, in order to foster a culture of appreciation for the inherent value of all within our community, the City Council wishes to express their opposition to the use of statements, symbols, actions, or activities that would convey messages of hatred, foster intolerance, or in any way seek to deprive any person of their fundamental rights.
NOW THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED by the City Council of the City of Canby as follows:
- The City Council supports and endorses a culture of appreciation and value for all persons within the community regardless of race, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.
- Statements, whether through the use of words, action, symbols or in any other form expressing hatred or intolerance are neither supported nor endorsed by the City Council of the City of Canby.
- The City Council expressly condemns and rejects any intolerant statement made that is not afforded protection as free speech under the first amendment to the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Oregon.
- The Canby City Council recognizes and embraces our responsibility to be vigilant in defense of the rights of all people, proactive in our attempts to be a welcoming community for all people looking for a better life, and steadfast and vigorous in condemning all forms of unconstitutional infringement.
This resolution shall take effect July 12, 2016.
ADOPTED this 12th day of July 2016, by the Canby City Council.