Larry Block may not officially be a candidate in the March 2015 West Hollywood City Council election, but he sure stirred the political pot at the City Council meeting on Monday night when he presented two rainbow flags to the city.
At the June 3 council meeting, Block suggested during public comment that the rainbow flag symbolizing gay rights should be flying over West Hollywood City Hall. Two days later, he got his wish.
However, the rainbow flag that joined the American and West Hollywood flags was slightly larger than the others, prompting City Manager Paul Arevalo to request a properly sized flag. Monday night, Block, who owns the Block Party clothing and gay souvenir store at 8853 Santa Monica Blvd., at Larrabee, donated a properly sized rainbow flag to the city.
“The gay flag is symbolic. It’s symbolic of acceptance and diversity and tolerance,” said Block. “When I travel or you travel to any state or any country, it’s like a big welcome sign, ‘You’re welcome here.’”
Block also brought a second rainbow flag, which he presented to a sheriff’s deputy to fly on the flagpole outside the West Hollywood Sheriff’s station.
The audience gave Block a thunderous round of applause for his gesture.
However, things quickly turned for Block. A few minutes later, the sheriff’s deputy gave the rainbow flag back to him.
“He told me he wasn’t authorized to accept it,” Block said. “He said he personally didn’t have any problems with gay rights, but that I needed to present [the rainbow flag] to the captain or the lieutenant in charge of the station.”
Additionally, Councilmember John Duran had a few choice words for the outspoken business owner.
During his presentation of the flag, Block said, “What ever happened to Gay Camelot? What took so long to raise the rainbow flag on our City Hall that says to every gay, lesbian and transgender kid, ‘You’re welcome here.’”
Duran took exception to Block’s comment.
“That’s a pretty outrageous thing to say to a city that was founded on LGBT rights,” Duran said during his council member comments. “The city of West Hollywood is shared by both gay, lesbian, bi and trans people and straight allies. It belongs to all of us. It’s not just a city of gay men. It belongs to heterosexual people as well … let’s not ever give the impression that City Hall has become exclusive to one part of the West Hollywood community.”
While Duran got some applause for his comment, it also surprised many in the audience. In the past Duran has spoken about the importance of rainbow flags, noting that tourists still routinely have their pictures taken in front of them along Santa Monica Boulevard. The most widely accepted figures indicate that 40 percent of WeHo’s 34,000 residents are gay men.
Monday night, Duran went on to say that rainbow flags fly over the intersection of San Vicente and Santa Monica boulevards, which is considered the heart of the Boystown district.
“We fly rainbow flags at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente 365 days a year,” Duran added. “The notion of flying a flag is not something that we created or invented. That’s been happening for the past 12 years at that corner. There’s also rainbow crosswalks there. Let’s be considerate of the fact that our heterosexual friends, neighbors and allies are also part of this community and not ever exclude them.”
A quick check of that intersection shows that Duran misspoke. The corner only includes rainbow crosswalks. The flagpole for the sheriff’s station on the southeast corner includes an American flag and the California state flag.
Some businesses at that intersection once had rainbow flags on their stores, but the nearest rainbow flag put up by the city is on the flagpole in the median of Santa Monica Boulevard near Huntley Drive, about 1,000 feet to the east.