Pride flag debate stirs more ire

Advocates calling for the city to display a LGBTQ+ Pride Flag continued their efforts at a Keizer City Council meeting Monday, June 21.

Two weeks prior, Councilor Roland Herrera floated the idea of flying a Pride Flag alongside the existing ones outside the Keizer Civic Center. The discussion quickly devolved into something more heated when Councilor Ross Day noted that if the city chose to fly a Pride Flag, it would also need to allow other points of view access to the space. Day said a group wishing to fly the confederate flag might request access to the space and the city would have no recourse to deny it.

During the meeting Monday, Mayor Cathy Clark took some responsibility for letting the conversation end up where it did.

“I’m very sorry that the conversation ended there. We have some set limits on flags in particular, and that is where the conversation should have gone. I take responsibility for that,” Clark said.

Still, testimony turned emotional at several points in the evening as residents offered responses to the conversation during the previous meeting.

Mathew Poteet said that the city already takes sides in some matters, especially during the holiday season when a Christmas tree goes up in the Keizer Civic Center and when councilors take oaths to support and defend the state and nation’s constitutions.

“Maybe we don’t call them flags, we call them banners and line River Road with them next year as we do during the holidays,” Poteet said.

Resident Cortney Clendening, after reading a letter from another resident, was still at the mic when Councilor Ross Day unleashed a torrent of criticism on those speaking during public testimony.

Day called those with disabilities “the most discriminated class in the history of humankind. My point is that I haven’t heard anyone talk about the disabled.”

That brought Clendening to tears as she recalled assisting disabled veterans at a kayaking event two days prior.

“I didn’t come here to judge you,” said Clendening after Day directed his fury at her. “Just because we aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean the advocacy isn’t happening. I do not believe that problems get solved when conversations fall apart in disrespect.”

Resident Claire Snyder, who organized a Pride Fair in Keizer two weeks prior, recommended that the council add a position that acts as a point of contact for and give voice to “members of the community who do not seem to have a place in the conversation right now.”

Snyder has suffered through a raft of criticism and threats as a result of organizing the Pride Fair, particularly from a group that showed up to demonstrate against the event the day it happened. Snyder began her statement noting that the council had taken to “brushing off” the lived experiences of some residents as merely “feelings,” which has occurred on several occasions in the recent months.

Clark signed a proclamation recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth, the day when the last victims of American slavery were notified that they were free, at the start of the meeting. It took more than two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation for them to learn of what happened.