Should the West Hollywood City Council “take a knee” on Monday?
That’s the provocative question raised by City Councilmember Lauren Meister in a recent post on her Facebook page. Meister was alluding to a movement launched by Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers in August of last year. Kaepernick decided to kneel rather than stand during the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” before the start of a pre-season game.
Kaepernick explained that he saw his action as a way to protest the oppression of black people in the United States
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of [color],” he said in an interviewed posted on NFL.com, referencing the growing outcry over police shootings of African-American people. “This is bigger than football…There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The “Take a Knee” movement, as it now is being called, has been embraced by a wide variety of people, and with Donald Trump’s recent condemnation of it the movement has become about more that racial oppression.
On Sept. 22, while campaigning in Alabama for U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange, Trump called on owners of NFL teams to fire players who refused to stand during the national anthem. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out. He’s fired. He’s fired,” Trump said.
The result was hundreds of football players refusing to stand, or in some cases leave the locker room, while the Star Spangled Banner was being sung. Dozens of other groups have hopped on the “banner” wagon to support and emulate the protests, many doing so less as statement of support for black rights and more as a way to proclaim their support for First Amendment — giving people (including football players) the right to speak their opinions. (Worth noting and often ignored is that the First Amendment only blocks the government from restricting one’s right to give his or her opinion. It doesn’t apply to individuals or nonprofits or corporations.)
The West Hollywood City Council does not sing the Star Spangled Banner before its twice-monthly meetings. But Council members do stand and invite a local resident to lead them in the Pledge of Allegiance. Virtually all members of the audience in the City Council Chamber join them. Such pledges of allegiance also are repeated at various city board and commission meetings. So the question really is whether the City Council should give the Pledge of Allegiance, not sing a song it has never sung.
Meister’s question on Facebook had gotten nearly 50 responses as of 5 p.m. today (Saturday), with almost all of them supporting the idea of “taking a knee” to protest. Others disagree.
Christopher Landavazzo, a gay L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy formerly stationed in West Hollywood, said that refusing to make the pledge is “utterly disgusting, shameful and disrespectful.” Tod Carson, a local interior designer who identifies as conservative and gay, also condemned the act of kneeling. And Charles Anteby, a local resident who is an actor, said “kneeling at a City Council meeting is going too far and, yes, disrespecting the flag!” (In the spirit of full disclosure, Henry (Hank) Scott, publisher and editor of WEHOville, as a matter of principle has declined to say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the Star Spangled Banner in recent years.)
As part of our “Let’s Discuss” series, WEHOville is asking you, our readers, what you think the City Council should do at its meeting on Monday? Should Council members “kneel,” whether literally or figuratively? If one or more did, what would you interpret that to mean? And would you join them?
(By the way, the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Monday in the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. if you’d like to show up and kneel or sit or stand. Parking is free in the five-story structure behind the Council chambers with a ticket validated in the lobby.)