The Hollister City Council delayed its decision on flying the “thin blue line flag” at City Hall on Aug. 2, citing the need for more background on the significance of the timing.
On July 16, the city received an application from a group that identifies itself as “Concerned Citizens,” requesting the city fly the blue flag at City Hall for the month of October.
The application included a dozen pages of signatures that were collected by Hollister residents Michael Fry and Silas Quintero.
But the council members were confused on why the group chose October to fly the flag, which proponents say shows support for fallen law enforcement personnel. National Peace Officers Memorial Day falls in May, Councilmember Tim Burns noted, adding that October is known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The council voted unanimously to table the decision to Aug. 16 to ask the petitioners for more information.
The issue of flying flags at City Hall has been a recent topic of discussion for the council.
In May, the council adopted a policy that allows residents to petition the city to fly a flag at City Hall. The application must receive 100 signatures in order for the council to consider it.
Shortly after, Councilmember Rick Perez submitted an application to the city requesting the flying of the Christian flag in April 2022, gathering 120 signatures. The council on June 21 voted 3-1 to request a letter from Attorney General Rob Bonta regarding the legality of flying a religious flag on government property.
Burns suggested that the city needs to tweak its ordinance, such as requiring signature-gatherers to provide background information on the significance of the flag, and specify how many flags can be flown on the pole.
Councilmember Rick Perez, who sponsored the blue flag application, said the council needed to honor the ordinance as it is currently written.
“Whatever month they picked, that’s the month they picked,” he said. “They followed the rules, there’s no reason for them to be denied.”
The blue flag has been a controversial subject nationwide. Advocates say the flag is meant to represent support of law enforcement, while opponents argue the flag has ties to hate groups, citing the flag’s usage in rallies alongside the Confederate and Nazi flags. Some of the protestors who stormed the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 riots reportedly carried similar blue line flags.
The flag resembles the American flag, yet it is blue and white, with a lighter blue stripe in the middle. This has led opponents to say the flag violates the U.S. Flag Code, citing language in the code that prohibits any “mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature” on the U.S. flag.
However, flag scholars have said that since the blue flag is not technically an American flag, it does not violate the code.
In an interview with Politifact, Peter Ansoff, president of the North American Vexillological Association, pointed to the section of the code that states, “the flag of the United States shall be 13 horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field.”