Should the West Hollywood City Council “Take a Knee” on Monday?

Colin Kaepernick, right, kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner at a San Francisco 49ers game in August 2016.

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 giving the Pledge of Allegiance (Photo by Richard Settles courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

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.)


36 Comments
  1. West Hollywood would benefit from focus on community unity and linking arms can be a united kind movement to keep our community united but I am not so sure young kids will understand Mayors or City Council kneeling as it was originated for National Anthem at NFL games. With the multitude of LASD misconducts in Weho to innocent citizens and even a death from it and the need to have P.E.T teams address dangerous homeless and find placement….and the many times hostile bullying within City offices towards community…I believe the unity of linking arms is peaceful and does not disrespect any national unity. More pro active community action together matters more than publicity actions.Kindness and respect towards everyone of all pathways builds a community….we all contribute to it.

  2. the united states flag and national anthem represent the goodness of her people, regardless of flaws and failings. the founders brilliantly built into the constitution, remedies and a pathway to deal with changes and defects. it works.
    and frankly, as someone who has chosen to be an american, why don’t those individuals who have lost the meaning of america, stroll the national cemetery in westwood, or better yet, walk amongst the graves at the brockton american cemetary, in england or in the north of france, the oise – aisne cemetery. all dedicated to the the men who died for our country and did not come home.
    i have, and that is where i have given thanks for my country.

  3. No, Woody McBreairty, what could reasonably be perceived when an American doesn’t say the pledge of allegiance or show respect for the national anthem is that that American indeed has no appreciation or respect for his country. You are not making a declaration of America’s perfection when you do so, but you are merely acknowledging that you have rights and opportunities that are unique to this country from its founding, including the right of dissent. Of course, no one should be forced to participate in this ritual (unless it is a condition of your employment, as is the case with the NFL while on the field,), but please don’t tell yourself that your non-participation doesn’t send any other message than contempt for America.

  4. After what happened last night in Las Vegas, Lauren Meister’s question…I can’t even…
    just stop. Enough of this crap already. Love your neighbor. That’s it.

  5. @Mike King: It is not so that in EACH, the victim had a knife or a gun. Many were unarmed. Comparing people peacefully exercising their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms to rapist & murderers is pathetic.
    @blueeyedboy Your statement that it was protesters from the last 200 years “who died so you could have that right” makes my point.
    Free people are allowed to demonstrate their expressions of appreciation, or not, in whatever way they choose. Different strokes for different folks

  6. If you are taking a knee to protest police brutality and racism, by all means, yes. If you are taking a stand against Mr Trump being an a**hole, link arms. If you don’t think the US is living up to the ideals the flag/anthem purportedly symbolize, do something to improve our tiny little piece of the country.

  7. Crusader, you acknowledge we live in a great country, so what is it you are dissenting or protesting against by not saying the pledge of allegiance or standing for the national anthem? An observer of you would assume you hate this country. Effective dissent or protest should leave no question to observers of you exactly what it is with which you take issue.

  8. I stopped reciting the Pledge in elementary school more than 45 years ago in Anaheim, California, and was threatened with an unsatisfactory grade in Citizenship as a result.

    My parents intervened (evidently, the school was unaware of my constitutional rights or a 1940s Supreme Court ruling) and the teacher backed down!

    Public officials should do what they want at meetings to peacefully protest or show their support for something. It is NOT disrespecting our great country, flag or songs, but actually SHOWING what a great country we are, in the form of permitting dissent!

  9. I wasn’t born in this country, and sometimes I feel I’m more grateful about living here than some that were.

    I guess I feel that way because, considering the alternative, I know how lucky I am.
    (It’s a long story)

    When I stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance I do it because of my personal gratitude and because I’m humbled and inspired by the totality of what this country stands for.

    I stand because our freedom gives me hope and encourages our ability to do better.

    For me, this is still the greatest country in the world.

    I’ll stand.

  10. Woody McBreairty, those football players have an employer who can require, as a condition of their employment, that they withhold their grievances to when they are on their own time. And the public and fans have had enough and are telling them to stand. When I worked for LA County we were instructed to not discuss politics with our coworkers because it could be divisive. There is nothing contradictory in standing with hand over heart to show appreciation that you live in a country where you can protest all you want and air your grievances to anyone who will listen. It was protesters from more than 200 years ago who died so you could have that right. It’s not asking too much that you demonstrate some gesture of appreciation for what they did.

  11. Christopher Landavazzo has every right & is definitely entitled to express his opinion. I disagree with him 100%. I keep wondering what part of freedom so many people don’t seem to understand. The football players today, another group of individuals tomorrow, until eventually our 1st Amendment rights give way to dictatorial demands. What Christopher may find disgusting, shameful & disrespectful, others may find patriotic & necessary & a matter of constitutionally guaranteed free speech & expression.

  12. The black football players stated kneeling because there with black lives matter.there argument is that cops are killing innocent black people,and if you look at each case the black person had a gun or a knife.so if you support kneeling you support criminals,in return you support home invasions,rape,murder by criminals in your neighborhood.

  13. It would be grandstanding if the Council did that. But then again, this Council is good at grandstanding. Just let this one controversy go by without getting involved. Do not knee since you do not sing the National Anthem anyways. They (the Council) doesn’t have to take a stand on EVERY controversial subject.

  14. The WEHO City Council should get on their knees and ask the “sky Gods” to forgive them for contacting out to the LA County Sheriff. That’s the “policing group” that killed by mistake an innocent young man and then WEHO keeps those cops around to do it again.

  15. The hypocracy for our City Council to kneel would be too much. As electeds, their job is to right the injustices the protest movement seeks to call out. As others have pointed out – work on reforming the brutality and murderous Sheriff Dept who patrol our streets like a paramilitary force. Work to solve homelessness that is plaguing our streets and neighborhoods. Tackle the real issues and stop the grandstanding.

  16. I am a Veteran. I served my Country. Only 9% of Americans do. I believe in freedom of expression and freedom of speech. If you want to take a knee against the current President you have the right to do so. This is nothing more than Trump trying to get people to stand for him, which I would never do. If you have not served in the Military you really have no right to complain about this issue.

  17. At this point, anyone of note who does this, let alone publicizes it before they even do it, is just bandwagoning. Which means that by now the whole concept is watered down to the point of meaninglessness.

  18. KNEELING ON ONE KNEE :That is the most humble & respectful gesture reserved formally for men proposing marriage to women. HOW HAS THIS GESTURE BECOME OFFENSIVE AND AN UNPATRIOTIC ACT OF THE WORST KIND??? Our President who won’t send navy, coast guard, army et al to Puerto Rico because … Perhaps the AMERICAN RESIDENTS didn’t go red for Trump in election, like Florida & Texas did … and The Red Stated got tons of immediate rescue resources.

  19. Is there another country to which you would rather pledge your allegiance? If so, go there. In this country you have the constitutional right to protest. It is THAT that we show reverence and respect for, after which we can go out and yell and scream to our heart’s content about whatever it is that gets our panties in a twist.

    In how many other countries in the world could there be a West Hollywood as we know it to be, a wehoville.com, and an on-line discussion like this one right here?

  20. It would be to easy for breitbart to poo-poo it as it is not regular protocol to have the anthem.
    It would be a photo op.
    Why not instead lead a charge to get the other 87 cities to endorse a condemnation -or resolution- against his racism. Racism has no place in a society. Nor any inequalities.
    Lauren deserves our thanks for putting this viable issue out for discuss. Her progressive voice is the strongest against excessive development.
    Exhibit the new Sunset Stalag at La Cienega.
    We’ve waited 25 years for that?

  21. As a veteran, board member in the City of West Hollywood, and performing member of GMCLA I welcome the opportunity to participate in the ceremony of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance/singing the National Anthem at events. I encourage like-minded persons to do so.

  22. Lauren Meiste, how about focusing on the out-of-control homeless situation here in our city and stop thinking of ways to grandstand to get in the news. I can’t wait until your term is up.

  23. wood mcbreairty said it right like the comment yes respect is for those that deserve it not for those that demand it (trump is demad it)

  24. I hope the CC does this. I’m incapable of understanding how forcing people to participate in a ceremonial custom can be called patriotism. It’s not. It’s fascism. The National Anthem & the flag to me both represent freedoms of expression & choice. If I chose not to stand, & someone came along & told me I had to stand up whether or not I wanted to, I’d be none too happy. Forcing citizens to participate in “patriotic” rituals is un-American. Russia – yes. China – yes. America – no. Respect is not demanded, it’s earned. Each & every citizen has a right to express themselves accordingly.

  25. No- they should stand and pledge to the flag as usual, and then condict the city’s’ business. No drama. Thanks!!

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