Libertarians gather to protest Nashua pine flag ban

It's once again about a battle flag, and a group of Granite State libertarians took the fight to Nashua City Hall on Monday.

The Pine Tree Flag, sometimes called the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, flew over the Battle of Bunker Hill when General George Washington and American revolutionaries faced the British outside Boston. However, when this flag was the subject of a citizen's request, Gate City Mayor Jim Donchess rejected it.

As a result, Donchess's recusal may have drawn more attention to the issue of First Amendment rights than he expected.

On Monday, a group organized by the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire gathered outside Nashua City Hall to protest Donchess' decision.

“Mayor Donchess' censorship of the Pine Tree Flag shows his hatred for New Hampshire's values ​​and history. It also likely violates the First Amendment, as the Nashua government uses taxpayer dollars to select what speech can be displayed,” said organizer and UNH law student Zephan Wood.

The flag, according to Wood, dates back to the Pine Tree Riot – an act of resistance by American colonists against British rule in April 1772 in the town of Weare, New Hampshire.

Donchess saw the question of raising the flag differently.

“The reason we will not fly this flag is because since the attack on the Capitol, it has become a symbol of violence against local, state and national government,” Donchess said.

Some legal experts believe Donchess's stance will put the city and its taxpayers in financial difficulty.

In March, pro-Christian activists succeeded in getting the city to fly a Christian flag over Nashua City Hall. The flag-raising effort also included Boston-based Camp Constitution founder Hal Shurtleff, whose group won a landmark 9-0 U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2022 after Boston City Council denied its citizen's petition. The city paid more than $2 million to Liberty Counsel, the pro-faith nonprofit that filed the lawsuit.

Nashua has the same policies for flag display by citizens. Like Boston, Nashua has a policy encouraging citizens to submit flag display petitions.

Still, Donchess argued Monday that city officials had the right to deny Nashua resident Beth Scaer's request to fly the Pine Tree Flag because “we have that discretion.”

Scaer, who took part in the flag protest on Monday, said she was “grateful that this protest is drawing more attention to the erosion of our First Amendment rights.”

The pine tree has been a political symbol in New England for at least 250 years, including the pinecone that currently adorns the Massachusetts State House. But critics of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, including writers at the New York Times and other left-leaning news outlets, are trying to use the flag to attack Justice Samuel Alito. The Times made the fact that Alito was flying the pine tree flag over the family's New Jersey beach house into big news.

In the city of San Francisco, however, known for its aggressive progressive politics and Democratic Party dominance, the same flag flew on City Hall grounds for over sixty years until it was removed late last month following the New York Times revelations.

Anna Harden

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