Controversial UN Flag Flies At City Hall Again
GAINESVILLE – The United Nations flag was flown on the same pole as the American flag at City Hall to honor the controversial organization despite the fierce protests and criticism the event has attracted in past years. Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan also issued a proclamation praising the organization and declaring October 18 “United Nations Day” in Gainesville.
The City has drawn sharp criticism from conservative organizations, veterans, and local business owners in years past, particularly the first year when the U.N. flag was raised above the American flag.
Similar ceremonies have been held every year since 1994 at the request of local organizations like the Gainesville chapter of the U.N. Association, Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion provider in the nation), and the League of Women Voters of Alachua County.
U.N. Day is normally recognized on Oct. 24, but this year the local event was held the week before. Critics believe this was done to avoid protests and scrutiny of the event, but the president of the local U.N. group, Bob Hornberger, denies this and added that the date was chosen so more supporters could attend.
The Liberty Sentinel repeatedly requested information weeks in advance but the City did not return phone calls until the day after the flag had been lowered. No notification or announcement was available on the City’s Web site either.
The events have attracted angry protesters from around the U.S. in previous years. Groups including the “Tyranny Response Team,” the Military Veterans Motorcycle Club and the “FReepers” have waved American flags and carried a variety of signs over the years. One that was there several years read: “The penalty for treason is death.” Another proclaimed: “The U.N. is commU.N.nism.”
Several militias have also expressed concern in the past. The North Central Florida Regional Militia issued a statement in ‘94 that said while a person is free to fly any flag on their own property, a government agency is not. Flags that are flown on government property indicate jurisdiction, according to the statement. It concludes by arguing that City officials are either treacherous or ignorant of the law, and that they should be removed from office.
A heavy police presence has been the norm most years in case of any disturbances, but no violence has been reported.
Donald and Ann Wolff, local business owners who have participated in the protests every year, said they think City officials are either paranoid or unfairly trying to demonize peaceful protesters concerned about American sovereignty and freedom.
The group they protested with,Citizens for Better Government, is one of the dozens of organizations that have been involved in opposing the City’s yearly recognition and praise of the United Nations.
“We tried to be as polite as possible in expressing our concerns, but they were absolutely belligerent and hostile,” Mr. Wolff said, referring to City officials, police and attendees. “This is still America and we have a right to protest against our City recognizing something as illegitimate and dangerous as the U.N.”
He emphasized that the protesters were peacefully exercising their rights on public property and that nobody made any threats.
“I felt like a foreigner in my own country,” added Mrs. Wolff. “It was very sad.”
During a c o m m i s s i o n meeting about city flag policy several years ago, angry residents expressed their opposition to the flying of the U.N. flag and petitioned to stop it. A S.W.A.T. team was waiting in a room nearby, Mr. Wolff said. When protesters discovered where the officers were hiding, they ordered pizza for them and helped deliver it, he said.
“Last year we decided ‘Let’s not show up next year; it will make them even more paranoid,’” he said, laughing. “Their efforts to do this quietly just show that the City knows people are outraged. Lucky for them, we weren’t going to show up this year anyway.”
Mr. Wolff explained that the U.N. has an indisputable record of promoting communism, supporting dictators, and raping and pillaging in countries they invade.
Americans must carefully guard their rights and their sovereignty, he added. Another opponent noted that the organization is increasing its control over the U.S. as evidenced by Bush “groveling before the U.N. for permission to go to war,” but failing to obtain a Declaration of War from Congress as required under the Constitution.
“It was nice that the protesters didn’t come this year,” said Hornberger, the president of the local U.N. Association. “They’ve come every year.”
He said the turnout was good andthat they had several guests who made speeches including Sherriff Sadie Darnell who was the chair of the U.N. celebrations at the Gainesville Woman’s Club.
“I’m very much in favor of giving the U.N. more power,” Hornberger said. He believes the U.N. should have a stronger military force and that the U.S. should provide more troops.
Hornberger admitted that many members of the local U.N. chapter were “certainly left-ofcenter” politically, but denied that the U.N. supports communism.
When asked about Alger Hiss, the convicted Soviet spy who was “representing America” at the convention that created the U.N., Hornberger said he probably shouldn’t comment. He later mentioned that he did not believe the first secretary-general of the U.N. was guilty of spying despite the evidence and eventual conviction.
“We feel that the U.N. is about promoting peace,” Hornberger said. He added that many people aren’t aware of the “non-controversial things” it does, so this year’s theme was stopping AIDS.
Hornberger argued that the world’s countries should use the U.S. as a model of States cooperating in considering the U.N.’s future role.
“People who think we are traitors should come to some of our meetings,” he said. “We are not advocating a world government, just more cooperation to solve global problems.”
When presented with quotes from various U.N. publications and documents confirming that the organization “strongly endorse[s] community initiatives to encourage the disarming of civilians” (Our Global Neighborhood, 1995, Commission on Global Governance) and believes that “public control of land use is indispensable,”(U.N. ‘Habitat I’ conference report) he said he was not familiar with the documents but that they are probably not significant. He added that the U.S. still has veto power on the U.N. Security Council.
City Commission candidate Armando Grundy expressed his concerns about the U.N. flag in a meeting with the mayor a few days before the ceremony.
“I told her that I thought, as a veteran who fought for this country and for freedom, that I found the raising of this flag very disrespectful,” he said. “We don’t fight for the U.N., we fight for the freedom of the United States of America.
The mayor told Grundy that she issues proclamations all the time and that people should not be alarmed, he said. She added that there have been concerns about the protesters possibly taking down the flag or worse, and that she would consider an “American sovereignty” proclamation if local organizations requested it.
When asked about the U.N. flag being raised at City Hall, Wayne LaPierre, the C.E.O. of the National Rifle Association who was in Gainesville the week after the event, said occurrences like this are exactly the reason he wrote his new book: “The Global War on Your Guns: Inside the U.N. Plan to Destroy the Bill of Rights.” Lloyd Bailey, a local business owner, is the leader of the Gainesville chapter of the John Birch Society, an organization well-known for defending America’s Constitution and sovereignty, and for its steadfast opposition to communism, the U.N. and infringements on people’s rights.
“I really think raising that flag is a slap in the face to everyone in this country,” he said. “The U.N. was created by the Council on Foreign Relations as a vehicle for global government, and if people knew the truth about it the U.S. would not be involved, I guarantee it.”
He noted that polls show a vast majority of Americans dislike the U.N. and that bills to stop funding it and to withdraw entirely are gaining support in Congress.
Bailey, who jokingly referred to the U.N. as “Tyrants, Terrorists and Thugs R’Us,” sells a wide variety of literature about the organization at his store. Healso referred to a U.N. invasion of the Congo where U.N. military forces were caught slaughtering civilians and bombing hospitals and refugee camps.
“Americans should really do some research about the U.N.,” he said. “Probably 98% of the people who support it just don’t know what it’s really about; that’s the problem.”
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