ALBANY — Assemb. Charles Barron violated the rules of the state Assembly Thursday when he knelt in the middle of the floor and thrust his fist in the air to protest a resolution honoring Flag Day.
“While they were stitching this flag, we were catching stitches in slavery suffering, some of the most brutal treatment the mind can conjure up,” said Barron (D-Brooklyn).
As he moved from his desk to the middle of the Assembly floor holding a small Pan-African flag, some members shouted “No props! No props!” referring to an Assembly rule that prohibits use of items during speeches.
Barron noted the composer of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was Francis Scott Key, a slave holder who wrote a verse that included a reference to exploiting slavery that isn’t sung today.
“That’s what this flag means to me, so when you say pledge allegiance to this, you have your politics and I have mine,” Barron said.
He continued, “So on behalf of all of the NFL players whose white owners are telling them that if they want to protest the national anthem, they have to go into a locker room and do it, I tell them to be men, to stand up like men, and protest this flag because it has the same symbolism as the Confederate flag to some of us, because it was born in racism.”
Several Republicans defended the resolution to honor the American flag, noting that soldiers have died defending the right of Barron to protest.
Assemb. Kieran Michael Lalor, of East Fishkill, recalled that as a young Marine serving in Iraq he received a flag from his parents, and that he and other Marines flew it over their “roost.”
“I am very proud of our flag,” he said. “I think everyone in this room should defend it.”
“Are we perfect as a country? No,” said Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square). “But we should never stop striving to be better.” The American flag “stands for that continuing striving to be mankind’s best hope. . . . So I am proud to recognize today as Flag Day.”
“I rise because of the hope the flag represents,” said Assemb. Al Taylor (D-Manhattan), a military veteran. “The purpose of the flag is to remind us where we have been, and where we yet have to get to.”
The measure to commemorate Flag Day was approved overwhelmingly.