WESTFIELD, NJ — A national group is calling on the town to raise the Italian flag for Columbus Day, in the way it raised the Pride Flag earlier this year. Columbus Day is tomorrow, October 14.
The Italian American One Voice Coalition, which works to fight stereotyping of Italian Americans, is objecting to Westfield’s refusal to fly the striped flag following the monthlong flying of the Pride Flag in June.
“We’d like to work this out,” said Andrew DiMino, an executive board member of the Bloomfield-based Italian American coalition. “We don’t think it's good to have any type of consternation or problem with this. If the mayor is willing, we’d like to discuss with her how this could be properly accommodated.”
One Voice Coalition, which works to ensure the representation of Americans of Italian origin, on Facebook Friday asked that people write to Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle to object the town’s refusal to fly the flag.
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“The Mayor of Westfield denied the request to fly the Italian flag on Columbus Day weekend,” the post stated. “She granted this request by another group and their flag was displayed for an entire month recently. Contact her office and let her know this is unequal treatment.”
On Saturday, Brindle said the municipality only has one flagpole and to fly another country’s flag under the American flag would be a violation of the United States Flag code. It would also break an established precedent in Westfield, she said.
“Flag code clearly states that flags from other nations must be flown on a separate pole — something that Westfield cannot accommodate,” Brindle said. “And it is also something I take with incredible reverence. My father was killed in Vietnam.”
The federal code does address the requirement for a separate pole when flying flags of another nation. “International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace,” the regulation states.
But that doesn’t mean everyone follows that regulation.
On Friday, Union County officials gathered outside of the Superior Court in Elizabeth for an annual ceremony where government officials and community leaders raised the Italian flag on the same pole from which the American flag flies.
Robert J. Tarte, a member of the Westfield Italian American club, and co-chair of Westfield’s Columbus Day celebrations, attended the flag raising in Elizabeth.
“The Italian flag was hanging below the American flag,” Tarte said.
He said that only after the concern about the refusal to fly the Italian flag in Westfield was raised publicly, did Brindle tell his group the refusal was the result of a federal rule.
Tarte, too, hopes something could be worked out with the town.
“We are considering in the future to, perhaps, donate a flagpole to the town,” Tarte said. “We haven’t made any decision on anything yet this point as to whether or not we choose to do that.”