Neighbors in Anchorage react to Assemblyman Flynn kneeling during Pledge of Allegiance
Tuesday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting wasn’t a packed one in terms of attendance, but it was a meeting that left an impact on the people there.
Assemblyman Patrick Flynn took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance, something he wrote about on his blog a few days before in a post titled, “To kneel or not to kneel?”
“Should I, at the September 27 Assembly meeting, recite the Pledge of Allegiance with my hand over my heart while kneeling as a show of respect for those who have conferred respect upon me?” the post reads. “Your thoughtful comments are appreciated.”
By kneeling during the pledge, Flynn now joins the national conversation in highlighting racial injustice and police brutality in America, following in the footsteps of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and members of the West Anchorage High School football team.
Flynn’s actions were rebuked by Assemblywoman Amy Demboski, who shared her opinion at Tuesday’s meeting.
“As a veteran, as someone who supports law enforcement, as somebody who looks at the Pledge of Allegiance as something that honors men and women who have died defending our country, I find it disrespectful,” she said.
Fellow Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, who has also served in the armed forces, said he didn’t feel disrespected by Flynn’s actions. But Gerard Asselin and other members of the Anchorage Police Department found themselves puzzled at the Assembly meeting, saying it was almost as if Flynn was taking a stand against the local police force.
“We know that we have a good relationship with our community, particularly here in Anchorage, we have built a lot of quality relationships,” said Asselin, who serves as president of the Anchorage Police Department Employee’s Association. “But it creates confusion when you have someone in a position of authority communicating a message that may not be consistent with that.”
Asselin said Flynn has since clarified that APD’s “connection to the community is pretty healthy.”
KTVA 11 News reached out to Flynn for an interview Wednesday morning. The Assemblyman declined in a message, saying, “I’ve said enough. I believe your viewers would be better served by your interviewing some of the people I represent.”
His constituents reside in District 1, which houses some of the most diverse neighborhoods in Anchorage. Airport Heights resident Sarah Allan said she felt Flynn was “well within his rights to express himself that way.”
“I do think those are important issues to this country,” said Allan of the social injustices that have been brought to light in recent months. “And I think that it’s good that our representatives, and especially somebody representing really diverse communities like Mountain View and Airport Heights, are sort of bringing attention to that issue and giving a voice to their constituents.”
Another Anchorage resident, Herman Smith, applauded Flynn, adding that “more people in our community need to step up.”
“People say, ‘Well, all lives matter,'” Smith said. “All lives do matter, but when you don’t step up and say all lives matter, you’re excluding the blacks, because lots of them are getting killed by police officers.”
But other community members, like Jeff Roberts, had mixed feelings about how Flynn chose to protest.
“I have a long history of military in my family. I think they’d roll over in their grave if they found out someone was sitting down and not representing the flag that way,” Roberts said. “But at the same time I feel like, you know, they’re standing for something they believe in, trying to make a stance for change. I just don’t know if it’s the right reaction, right approach for it.”
But kneeling for the pledge is the approach Flynn chose, and it’s now under scrutiny. The Assemblyman shared his thoughts in a Facebook post after his silent protest.
“If a boring white guy can’t stand, or kneel, in recognition of those whose believe their voices are not heard, who can?” he wrote. “I’m truly concerned about the divisiveness that seems to pervade the discourse in our country and hope to include more people in the conversation. If that ends my political career, so be it.”
In response to Demboski’s assertion that Flynn broke official rules with his silent protest, Assembly Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson said she’s waiting on a legal opinion on Flynn’s actions.
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