Town OKs Use of Palestinian Flag on Public Flagpole

North Andover, Massachusetts – In a highly debated decision, the town of North Andover has approved a permit for a Palestinian flag to be flown on the Town Common. The application, submitted on October 16, was approved by town officials and the flag was raised Tuesday morning, to the delight of some residents and the disapproval of others.

The decision came after a rescheduled board meeting on Monday night, due to reported threats of litigation and public safety concerns. Residents both in favor and against the flag’s placement on town property attended the meeting, which had a heavy police presence to ensure order.

One resident, Salma Boulal, argued that if Israel has the right to fly their flag on the Town Common, Palestinians deserve the same right. This was met with opposition from other residents, who argued that the Palestinian flag represents a symbol of hatred and antisemitism.

Town Manager Melissa Rodrigues explained that under the new policy, the flagpole on the Town Common is limited to statements of governmental speech, in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shurtleff v. Boston. The decision states that a town cannot prohibit a flag from being flown based on its content, meaning, or message.

However, Marc Freedman, president of the Congregation Ahavat Olam, expressed his disgust and horror at the town’s decision to raise the Palestinian flag. He argued that it is a symbol of hatred and antisemitism, and should not be allowed on town property.

Freedman also claimed that the town was acting out of fear of litigation, and that doing what is right should be more important than avoiding potential legal action. He attended the board meeting on Monday, along with about 600 other residents, and witnessed heated debates between supporters and opposers of the flag’s placement.

Ultimately, the Town Select Board voted to allow the flag to be flown, despite some members admitting they may not personally agree with the decision. The board was advised by counsel to approve the application, to avoid potential legal action.

North Andover is not the only town in Massachusetts grappling with the issue of flying the Palestinian flag in public spaces. Last week, Worcester, the state’s second-largest city, flew the flag in front of City Hall, following a similar decision to temporarily display the Israeli flag after the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

The decision to fly the Palestinian flag in North Andover has sparked controversial discussions among residents and opened up questions about the town’s policies on displaying flags on public property. As the flag continues to fly on the Town Common, it remains to be seen how this decision will impact the community and if any further actions will be taken.


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